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U.S. Reaction Mixed to Bombings

March 24, 1999

Serbs living in the United States were outraged Wednesday that NATO has directed its military might against their homeland, while some Albanians in this country were hopeful that the bombing of Yugoslavia would lead to peace.

``Albanian-Americans, regardless of their religious persuasion, are very much grieved by the humanitarian horror that has occurred in Kosovo and also by the recalcitrance of the government in Belgrade to negotiate,″ said Arthur Liolin, the very reverend chancellor Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America.

Liolin, whose church is based in Boston, hoped the bombing would ``not only encourage but compel the Belgrade parties to stop the massacres and the killing.″

But Georg Nikolic, president of the Serbian National Congress, was outraged at the attack. His Chicago-based congress is an umbrella organization for Serbian groups worldwide.

``We hope that when this bombing stops, somebody will raise their voice and stop this,″ said Nikolic from Chicago, where the Serb community numbers more than 200,000. ``It is totally wrong. This should not be happening. It needs to be stopped immediately.″

The NATO bombings began shortly after 8 p.m. (2 p.m. EST). The attack was the first against a sovereign country in NATO’s 50-year history.

In metropolitan Detroit, home to about 40,000 ethnic Albanians, there was worry.

``I pray to God that they do it fast and they don’t kill too many people,″ said Imam Vehvi Ismaili, spiritual leader at the Islamic Center in Harper Woods and an ethnic Albanian.

Mike Tomich of Detroit, who is Serbian, said he feared the fighting would be drawn out.

``I don’t like it. People will get killed. I don’t believe even President Clinton understands the situation,″ Tomich said.

Slavko Panovic, president of the Serbian National Defense Council in Chicago, said he was ``shocked″ at the actions of the United States.

``It’s a shame. I never thought I would see the day that my beloved country of America would bomb such a small country like Serbia,″ he said.

``It’s a tragedy. A modern tragedy.″

In Ohio, Agim Ajrami Bajrami said NATO should have taken action earlier.

``I think NATO is right to bomb the Serbian military force,″ said Bajrami, an Albanian. ``They should have attacked earlier. It would have saved more people’s lives.″

Bajrami emigrated from Albania to Cleveland eight months ago, joining about 2,000 Albanian emigres in the city. His mother, two brothers and a sister live in Albania.

``I love my family and worry about them but it’s important to attack sometimes,″ said Bajrami, 26. ``You watch on TV how little children are being murdered by Serbian police. The situation is getting too bad.″

But Dobrana Radakovich, 46, a Serb who came to Cleveland 22 years ago, was angry. She has relatives in the tiny Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, which was hit during the bombing.

``I’m worried about their safety,″ she said. ``I would be the first to defend America. This is my country. But should we attack a small country? It’s smaller than Ohio.″

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