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Clinton Urges Kosovars To Wait

June 22, 1999

STENKOVEC CAMP, Macedonia (AP) _ Refugees in a tent city embraced President Clinton today as a beloved conquering hero. Within sight of Kosovo, Clinton beseeched the ethnic Albanians not to rush home to Kosovo before land mines were cleared.

``I don’t want any child hurt, I don’t want anyone else to lose an arm or a leg or a child because of a land mine,″ the president said. ``So be patient with us. Give us a couple more weeks to get the mines up. You are going to be able to go back in safety and security.″

Venturing as close to the Kosovo border as security would allow, Clinton also pledged to help build a better future for the Balkans.

``We are committed, not only to making Kosovo safe, but to helping people rebuild their lives,″ he said.

The crowd gathered among rain-soaked green, white and blue tents and chanted ``U-S-A!″ as Clinton told them that European nations and the American people would continue to stand by them.

``We are proud of what we did because we think it’s what America stands for,″ Clinton said. ``No one ever, ever should be punished and discriminated against or killed or uprooted because of their religion or their ethnic heritage.″

As the president, his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea walked from tent to tent in the muddy camp, nine children with paper signs spelling ``CLINTON″ taped to their chests clapped and chanted ``Clinton, Hillary.″

The children were delighted to see the president, said Muhamed Musliu, another camp resident, ``because he helped the people of Kosovo and the Albanian people escape from the war by Serbia.″

Chelsea Clinton, wearing a dark business suit, crouched to shake hands with two pint-sized boys in tattered plaid shirts. Children also swarmed the president after his speech, and he picked several up to hug them.

Idriz Magastena, 29, who huddled in a tent with his wife and 4-year-old son, said that when his family fled the village of Podujevo, their caravan was stopped by armed Serbs, who took one person from each vehicle and shot or stabbed them to death.

Still, Magastena said the ordeal was worth it. ``Now we go to live in Kosovo without Serbs,″ he said. ``You cannot gain freedom without blood.″

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