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Cohen receives warm welcome from Kosovar Albanians

Ethnic Albanian children were among the crowd welcoming Cohen to Urosevac

Focus onKosovo
CNN's Matthew Chance reports on NATO peacekeeping efforts
Windows Media 28K 80K

Crisis in Kosovo


June 19, 1999
Web posted at: 8:11 p.m. EDT (0011 GMT)

UROSEVAC, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Shuttling around towns in eastern Kosovo on Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen was warmly greeted by jubilant Kosovar Albanians.

Residents of Urosevac chanted "USA, USA," and "Cohen, Cohen," upon his arrival, and one man startled the defense secretary by giving him an emotional hug.

Another man in nearby Gnjilane wore a shirt reading "NATO air," a tribute to the alliance for its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. Many Kosovar Albanians consider the airstrikes, which ended in early June, a boost to the cause of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Cohen, the first Clinton administration official to visit Kosovo since NATO began bombing Yugoslavia on March 24, also visited with U.S. troops in the province and thanked them for their role in the NATO-led peacekeeping force.

"Now that you're here, a lot of people are glad. They know you are going to be tough and fair," Cohen told a company of Marines in Gnjilane.

They were some of 3,300 U.S. troops deployed in the eastern sector of Kosovo. A total of 7,000 U.S. troops should arrive by next month, part of a total peacekeeping force -- known as KFOR -- that is expected to number 50,000.

The KFOR troops, responsible for enforcing the implementation of the peace agreement, are also charged with preventing further ethnic clashes. They have their work cut out for them, as sporadic violence continued to plague the province.

In Gnjilane, an ethnic Albanian was injured Saturday by gunfire, which he said came from a Serb sniper shouting pro-Serbian slogans.

Yet many of the attacks were directed against Serbs. A hail of gunfire hit a vehicle with Serbians inside.

"We were just driving. I can't believe he's dead," said a friend of a fatally wounded man.

The town's only hospital remains deserted, with ethnic Albanians still afraid to enter it after Yugoslav forces "ethnically cleansed" it weeks ago. Serb doctors, meanwhile, say they fear reprisals from the KLA. Marines discovered a hidden cache of automatic weapons in the building.

Cohen, who signed an agreement in Finland on Friday with his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeyev, on Russia's role in the KFOR mission, told U.S. soldiers that Russian participation was vital.

"They will be sharing a responsibility to help keep the peace, and that should send a message of assurance to those (Serbs) who are fearful that there will be retribution," he said.

Roughly 3,500 Russian troops will be integrated into the KFOR mission, Cohen said.

Cohen had a bird's-eye view of destruction in ethnic Albanian villages as he shuttled around the province. Burned out houses contrasted with rolling green pastures.

Accompanied by NATO's top military commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, Cohen flew over a suspected mass grave site in southeastern Kosovo before returning to Macedonia for a trip to a refugee camp.

Before flying to the Balkans, Cohen visited American air crews at Aviano air base in Italy, where much of NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia originated.

Correspondent Matthew Chance and Reuters contributed to this report.

Agreement reached on Russian role in Kosovo force
June 18, 1999
Yugoslav forces meet second withdrawal deadline
June 18, 1999
U.N. wants 2 weeks before Kosovar refugees return
June 18, 1999
Returning refugees find gruesome remains in wrecked Kosovo
June 17, 1999
U.S., Russia extend talks on Russian role in KFOR
June 17, 1999
More U.S. troops enter Kosovo
June 15, 1999
FBI to send forensic team to Kosovo
June 12, 1999

  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
  • Kosovo - from

  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

Resettlement Agencies Helping Kosovars in U.S.:
  • Church World Service
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
  • Iowa Department of Human Services
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Immigration and Refugee Services of America
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
  • United States Catholic Conference

  • World Relief
  • Doctors without borders
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
  • Doctors of the World
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Mercy International

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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