Albania warns ethnic kin in Serbia

TIRANA, Mar 16, 2000 -- (Reuters) Albania warned ethnic Albanian guerrillas in southern Serbia on Wednesday not to stir up trouble, saying they risked endangering regional stability.

Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said Albania wanted to discourage extremists both in Serbia's Presevo Valley and in Kosovo because they might "sabotage" the already difficult peace process in Kosovo.

"The Albanian government does not agree with those extremist nationalistic circles that might be acting in Presevo, Medveda and Bujanovac," Milo told reporters at a joint news conference with the European Union's security chief Javier Solana.

"They care more about their own careers than the true interests of the Albanians there."

An armed group has recently emerged in the Presevo Valley just inside Serbia, pledging to defend the region's Albanian majority from alleged brutality by Serb security forces. The United States warned the Albanian guerrillas on Sunday against provoking a new conflict, saying it strongly opposed the kind of provocation that would cause new refugees.

Solana, who came to Tirana from Kosovo, said he hoped local elections could be held there either in late September or early October.

"I do hope that the electoral process and the preparation of it would be...a democratic shock that would create a positive dynamic," said Solana, who was NATO's secretary-general during its 78-day air campaign against Yugoslavia.

He said the European Union would remain commmitted to Kosovo's political and economic development as well as to reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs, who have fled en masse from Kosovo to escape violence from the ethnic Albanians.

"I do think that in Kosovo the commitment of everybody is needed to respect the minorities. I think that without the respect of minorities we shall not have in future a democratic Kosovo," he added.

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