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CNN Today

NATO Peacekeepers Clash with Ethnic Albanians in Divided City of Mitrovica

Aired February 21, 2000 - 2:22 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Kosovo is back in the news, NATO peacekeepers clashed with ethnic Albanians today in the divided city of Mitrovica. Tension has been building all month in the town, which is separated into Serb and Albanian sectors by a river.

Mark Austin has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK AUSTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tens of thousands of Albanians marched on Mitrovica in the biggest demonstration since NATO peacekeepers entered Kosovo in June last year. It all began peacefully, but tensions increased as the protesters tried to breakthrough to the center of the city to a bridge separating the Serb minority in the north, from the Albanian community in the south.

The divided city has been a flashpoint for Kosovo's continuing ethnic hatreds, and today NATO forces, including British troops, were determined to prevent the protesters storming across the bridge.

The clashes continued for more than two hours, and several rounds of tear gas were fired. The Albanians blame NATO forces for failing to protect the few Albanians still living in the Serb sector of the city, and fear the peacekeepers are effectively allowing the partition of Mitrovica.

What is happening here is clear evidence that despite NATO's intervention, there is still no real peace in Kosovo, and as Albanians and Serbs continue to confront each other here, NATO says it is monitoring a build-up of Yugoslav forces in southern Serbia. But this protest was eventually quelled, largely by the efforts of the royal green jackets. And by early evening, most of the demonstrators had dispersed. These are dangerous days in Kosovo, and NATO's mission is perhaps facing its sternest test yet.

Mark Austin, ITN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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