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Tense calm prevails in Kosovo

NATO pledges Kosovo crackdown


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Serbia
Kosovo (Serbia)
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PRISTINA, Kosovo (CNN) -- A tense calm prevailed Friday night in Kosovo after three days of ethnic violence in which at least 28 people were killed and 600 were wounded.

"I think we have turned the corner and we have regained control," said Derek Chapel, a spokesman for UNMIK, the U.N. Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.

More international forces were due to arrive Friday in the region to enforce the peace.

During the upheaval, ethnic Albanian protesters burned to the ground 16 Serbian churches and 110 Serbian houses, U.N. spokeswoman Isabella Karlowitz said.

Earlier reports of 31 dead were found to be in error when the world body determined that three bodies had been counted twice, she said.

Mainstream Serbian and Albanian political leaders in Kosovo have appealed for calm, but an extremist minority appeared to be fomenting violence, she said.

Earlier Friday, a loud blast shook a high-rise building in Mitrovica, scene of the worst clashes this week, and NATO-led troops evacuated residents, Reuters reported.

Smoke billowed from windows in the building, populated mainly by Albanians, but located in the Serb-dominated northern part of the ethnically divided town. French NATO peacekeepers soldiers carried out two elderly people.

Kosovo -- in the country of Serbia and Montenegro, the former Yugoslavia -- has been under U.N. administration since the war ended in 1999. NATO is responsible for peacekeeping efforts and protecting the minority Serbs.

France agreed to deploy 400 troops, 200 to arrive on Friday and the rest in the coming days, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

Germany's Defense Ministry said it would send 600 forces, which will start moving in Saturday. The rest of the troops will begin arriving Sunday and the first groups will be ready for their mission Monday, the ministry said.

Germany already has more than 3,000 forces stationed in Prizren, which is in the headquarters of the German sector of Kosovo.

Additional NATO troops include an American and an Italian unit, 500 British troops and 150 British and U.S. troops from neighboring Bosnia according to a spokeswoman for Kosovo's Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi and a NATO spokeswoman in Brussels.

In Washington, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met Friday with Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic.

"Both stated that the immediate priority is to end the violence," said Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman for the State Department, in a written statement.

The two men "agreed that UNMIK and KFOR must act decisively" to protect people and property from further violence, Ereli said. KFOR is NATO's Kosovo Force.

Svilanovic said the violence was intended to cleanse the region of Serbs, to scare international organizations in the region and to prevent any further arrests of Kosovar Albanians indicted by a war-crimes tribunal.

"We cannot even use the term that this is an ethnic conflict," he said. "Basically, this was violence against the Serbs."

Svilanovic said he wants the establishment of a new organization in Kosovo that would guarantee Serbs the right to live in peace.

"It seems that Albanians are not at this moment willing to live together with Serbs," he said. "I hope that this is going to be changed, and that reason and political leadership will prevail."

Kosovo is home to 2 million ethnic Albanians and fewer than 100,000 Serbs. Svilanovic said the violence appeared to be the work only of a "very extreme" group of Albanians.

Madeleine Albright, who served as ambassador to the United Nations and later as secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, helped broker peace in Kosovo. She blamed the current unrest on neglect.

"There have to be more discussions about the final status of Kosovo," she told CNN. "There has been a kind of a vacuum of interest in Kosovo. Extremists have filled that vacuum."

She added that there's neither been enough action by the United Nations "in terms of engaging properly with the Kosovars to give them hope" nor enough attention from the United States. "We did not have time to finish the job in Kosovo, and I just wish that there had not been a vacuum created there," she said.

The worst spate of ethnic clashes since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999 began early Wednesday after three Albanian children drowned.

U.N. officials said the children were being chased by Serbs and drowned in a river that separates the two communities in Mitrovica.

Soon afterward, riots erupted in parts of the majority-Albanian province. KFOR soldiers and police sprayed tear gas, set up roadblocks and established a curfew, but were unable to control the situation.

"We had attacks on every single ethnic Serb enclave," Serb government minister Aleksandr Popovic said about Wednesday's events. "You had orchestrated attacks."

Thousands of Albanians swept through Serbian enclaves. More than 1,000 Serbians were evacuated for their own protection to KFOR military bases.

Independent observers who asked not to be identified said the uprising appeared to be a planned campaign. They said they were told that text messages were sent to Albanians' cell phones inciting them to riot.

On Thursday, Serbs set fire to a mosque in Nis and wrote, in graffiti, "This is for Kosovo."

CNN correspondent Matthew Chance contributed to this story.


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