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Kosovo Albanians Welcome NATO

June 12, 1998

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians saw hope and long-overdue justice Friday in NATO’s promise of a show of force to discourage Serb attacks on their province.

Kosovo’s Serbs were divided in the face of the Western action _ some defiant, others glumly resigned.

``What the world is now saying, that it might bomb Serbia, fills me with hope,″ said Nafije Grainca, 38, an ethnic Albanian who has been considering fleeing with her family because of the mounting violence of recent weeks.

``The Serb people are not to blame, but it’s God’s justice that the turn has come for their politicians, who have inflicted so much pain on others, to account for their deeds.″

The latest Serb offensive in western Kosovo prompted NATO on Thursday to announce it would stage a show of air power _ no bombings, just mock air raids over neighboring countries _ to persuade Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to halt the assaults.

``America can, and should, do it,″ said Eroll Haxhiu, 46, a jewelry seller in a market in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital.

The ethnic Albanians were the first people in former Yugoslavia to feel the brunt of Milosevic’s power: at least 25 Kosovo Albanians were killed when he stripped the province’s autonomy in 1989.

And they say it’s high time for the man who went on to foment war in Croatia and Bosnia to be taught a lesson.

Milosevic rose to power in 1987 saying he would protect Serbs in Kosovo, where 90 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian. Kosovo is considered Serbia’s heartland and houses its most prized cultural monuments.

Some of Kosovo’s Serb minority agreed that Milosevic should go.

Leaders like him ``ruined the good country we had″ in the old Yugoslavia, said Vasilije Stefanovic, a Serb pensioner from the Kosovo town of Prizren.

``They will ruin this one too. We are to blame for everything that is happening. If they bomb us, we deserve it.″

Others were defiant, insisting that Kosovo remain out of Albanian hands.

``If they want to bomb us, they’ll do it,″ said Jovan Simeunovic, 42. ``But first, our guys (Serbian police) should finish it off″ with the ethnic Albanians.

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