[KDN] AFP New Year in Kosovo, Albanians celebrate freedom
- New Year in Kosovo, Albanians celebrate freedom
PRISTINA, Jan 1 (AFP) - Thousands of ethnic Albanians flocked
into Kosovo's capital Pristina Saturday to celebrate a New Year free
of Yugoslav troops, while families of Albanians imprisoned in
Belgrade called for their release.
City inhabitants had erected a stage in front of the national
theatre, from where families of those who have been imprisoned by
Serbia or disappeared launched an appeal to the Belgrade government
for their return.
Bernard Kouchner, head of the UN administration which has run
Kosovo since a NATO bombing campaign forced Yugoslav troops out of
the province in June, promised he would do everything in his power
to get a reply from Belgrade.
Amid falling snow, young ethnic Albanians celebrated the
province's relative freedom from Yugoslavia.
"Last year it was dreadful, we could not go out. The Serbs were
treating us like animals," said Ilir, 22.
Earlier Friday, Kouchner travelled to the divided town of
Kosovska Mitrovica to urge the town's Serb and Albanian residents to
live in harmony.
"Believe me, Mitrovica will be a unified town ... but give us
time," Kouchner told residents in remarks on the bridge which
divides the Serbian and Albanian areas and which has been a frequent
scene of clashes between the two communities.
But Serbs and Albanians laughed off his plea.
"I don't believe him when he talks about reuniting the town,"
said Petar, a 21-year-old Serb.
"You just have to look at what he has done for us until now, he
keeps breaking resolution 1244," he said, referring to the UN
security council resolution that promised substantial autonomy to
Kosovo, but within Yugoslavia.
Albanian passerby Mexhat Adani said Albanians had "a lot of
hope" in Kouchner, but did not want Serbs to stay in the town.
"They do not deserve (to stay), not after all the crimes they
have committed," he said.