Liberation Of Kosovo: 11,000 Serbs fled in a week

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 11,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo since last week's peace deal between Yugoslav forces and Nato, the International Committee of the Red Cross said yesterday.

Jette Soerensen of the Geneva-based ICRC said about 10,000 Serbian civilians had fled into Serbia since Friday and another 1,000 had moved into Montenegro, which along with Serbia makes up the Yugoslav federation.

However, some officials from the UN refugee body, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), believe that the true figure is closer to 15,000.

Most of the Serbs appear to have come from Prizren, Djakovica and Urosevac, cities in the south and central part of Kosovo, from where Yugoslav forces have already withdrawn in line with the peace deal.

Momcilo Trajkovic, leader of the Serbian Resistance Movement, a political party representing Kosovo's 180,000 Serbs, said he believed that at least 30,000 Serbs were now on the move because they feared revenge by returning Albanians and armed fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army. "We are trying to prevent the exodus of the Serbs with the authorities, so they could remain where they live," Mr Trajkovic said.

Although he said the situation for the Serbs was "stable" in some cities, there remains a distinct danger that whole of the Serbian population of Kosovo will leave once the Yugoslav army and police leave northern Kosovo by the 20 June deadline.

Apart from the Pristina suburb of Kosovo Polje, a belt of villages round Pristina and the far north of the province, around Leposavic, Serbs are only a small minority in the communities where they live, and are therefore highly vulnerable.

Nato has said it will restore law and order in Kosovo and will protect members of both communities but there are strong doubts that K-For has has the ability or the numbers to prevent revenge attacks.