Nato tells Serbs to halt build-upJuliette Terzieff
February 22 2000
NATO gave a formal warning to Belgrade yesterday over the harassment of ethnic Albanian communities in southern Serbia, bordering Kosovo, after a build-up of Serb paramilitary units in the area (Michael Evans writes).
Concerned that rising tension in the Presevo Valley region might lead to confrontation with the alliance's Kosovo Force, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, the Nato Secretary-General, said that violent action against the Albanians across the border from Kosovo would not be tolerated.
Nato sources said that four paramilitary Ministry of Interior police units had been deployed to the Presevo area in the past two weeks, and there were fears that they might begin an "ethnic cleansing" operation against Albanians there. The build-up of Serb forces in southern Serbia has taken place while the main focus for the alliance has been on the ethnic violence between Albanians and Serbs in Mitrovica, northern Kosovo.
Lord Robertson said: "I would warn anybody who seeks to be provocative in that part of the world, on whatever side of the divide they may be, that we will not tolerate action being taken."
Belgrade is claiming that it has had to act to counter attacks from armed members of the disbanded UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army) from within Kosovo. It has blamed Albanian extremists for trying to take over the mainly Albanian Bujanovac-Presevo-Medveda area that borders the southern edge of Kosovo.