All Kosovars need protection

Serbs, too: Disarming KLA, defending churches, aiding homeless are troops' duties now.

June 18, 1999

THE PROBLEMS facing the peacekeeping troops in Kosovo were not long coming. Foremost are the hordes of Albanian Kosovars going back to destroyed villages and homes, and others still wandering in the hills seeking water and food.

Although the Serbian army is withdrawing as agreed, more problems quickly became apparent, with the complaint of Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic that monasteries and churches were under siege in Prizren from Kosovo Liberation Army members patrolling the streets. Serbian Orthodox institutions survived in Kosovo during centuries of Turkish rule. Their survival in peace now is a NATO responsibility.

One impediment is a revenge mentality among Albanian Kosovars, as atrocities committed by Serbian forces against Albanians are uncovered almost hourly.

Another is KLA resistance to disarmament, despite its agreement to "demilitarization."

This is especially true in the north, where Serbian church institutions are centered, as long as the threat remains of a separate Russian sector of occupation there. The KLA responds with a threat to fight it. Still another impediment is the history of exaggerated claims of Albanian atrocities, made in the name of Serbian nationalism in the recent past.

These give wing to frightened imaginations. Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, the British commander of peacekeepers, should be quick to establish and publish the extent to which Bishop Radosavljevic's charges are true.

The peacekeepers, in short, must establish their authority and not allow the KLA to seize police functions. The prospect of confrontation with elements of the KLA, recent allies of NATO air power, is real and must be faced.

The dash of a Russian advance guard to Pristina resulted in a small outpost at the airport which Russia has trouble sustaining. Yet it serves the KLA as an excuse not to disarm, since the Russians are regarded as serving the Serbian interest.

In the diplomatic dance with Moscow, Washington must convince President Boris Yeltsin's government that, the joy of grandstanding aside, a separate Russian presence ill serves the Serbian interest.

A unified command can disarm the KLA. Peacekeeping disarray would bring out the worst in all Kosovars.

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