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CNN International World News

Fresh Violence In Kosovo Could Draw NATO Forces Back To The Battlefield

Aired March 16, 2000 - 0:00 a.m. ET

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

CNN INTERNATIONAL - WORLD NEWS 03/16/00 SERBIA

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: Elsewhere in Kosovo, NATO peacekeeping forces seized an arsenal of weapons along the administrative border with Serbia.

A top United States Defense Department official is now predicting a military confrontation between NATO troops and ethnic Albanian insurgents. He says a clash is likely sooner rather than later.

CNN's Andrea Koppel has more on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fearful fresh violence in Kosovo could draw NATO forces back to the battlefield, the Clinton administration is warning Albanian extremists to cool it or NATO will use force to stop them.

JAMES RUBIN, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: My message to them was don't miscalculate what NATO did for Albanians in Kosovo as what we would do in the Presevo Valley.

KOPPEL: Once NATO's comrades in arms, a group of several hundred ethnic Albanians are launching their own cross-border offensive into southeastern Serbia much as the Kosovo Liberation Army did elsewhere last year.

IVO DAALDER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: They want to provoke the Serbs in the kind of massive retaliation that we saw in 1998 and 1999 in order to have NATO extend its security blanket beyond Kosovo into eastern Serbia.

KOPPEL: With tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians living across that border in the Serbian city of Presevo, Kosovars hope to annex the area and make it their own.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We understand the major plight of the Kosovar-Albanians. But we cannot deal with these kinds of provocations. It was a clear message.

DAALDER: The real issue is can we control these people? Can we control the consequences of their actions?

KOPPEL: In fact, the Kosovar-Albanian leaders themselves seem reluctant if not unable to reign in this extremist faction fighting for Kosovo's independence.

Pentagon officials tell CNN they have not ruled out sending additional troops to the region. But the heightened concern has prompted an immediate decision to send up to six unmanned surveillance aircraft to monitor ethnic Albanian activity.

(on camera): It boils down to this. After going to war against Yugoslavia to defend Kosovar-Albanians, the United States and its NATO allies are extremely frustrated that some of the very people they fought to protect are now the aggressors.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, State Department.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

END

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