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NATO Officials Wary of Kosovo

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MONS, Belgium, Jan. 28, 1998 – NATO officials are highly concerned trouble in the Serbian province of Kosovo may spill over into neighboring nations.

"We're watching this very closely," said U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, NATO supreme allied commander Europe. "Clearly there's a potential for violence there. Should violence occur, it would have profound implications."

Speaking to reporters here, Clark said a long pattern of repression toward Kosovo's ethnic Albanians could spark that violence.

Ethnic Albanians make up about 90 percent of Kosovo's population. Regional experts say the 500,000 Albanians in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would probably become involved if violence erupts in Kosovo.

Recent reports of weapon smuggling into Kosovo are causing further concern. "Neighbors are quite concerned that the disorder in Albania resulted in the wholesale transfer of weaponry into Kosovo, raising the possibilities for increased violence," Clark said.

The U.N. Preventive Deployment Force of about 350 American and an equal number of Nordic troops man observation posts and patrol the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's border with Serbia. The mission is due to end in August 1998, but, Clark said, officials of the former Yugoslav republic apparently would welcome a continued presence.

"They are anxious about the situation in Kosovo and in the Balkans in general," he said, adding they've made it clear to him they believe international attention and presence is important to their security.

Clark said NATO officials would like all parties in the region to resolve their differences in a peaceful and democratic fashion.

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