Liberation of Kosovo: Free drinks as bar is liberated

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The Independent Online
THE COUP was sudden and unexpected. The soldiers moved in silently and began thinking of logistics. Their most pressing need was for bottles of whisky and a case of bitter lemon.

The liberation of Kosovo has taken many twists. The latest was surreal: last night the Kosovo Liberation Army liberated the bar at Pristina's Grand Hotel.

Despite Nato's arrival in the Kosovan capital and the retreat of Yugoslav forces, the hotel has remained in the hands of the Serbs. Whilst the people in the bar were last night drinking to the liberation, the reception staff's sympathy lay elsewhere.

Adding further to the sense of the ridiculous was the origin of these KLA soldiers. They were not rough-and-ready boys from the mountains, they hadrather more unlikely addresses such as Brooklyn, New York. The Atlantic Brigade of the KLA had arrived in town in their smart, black shirts.

"We just want to make sure that the Albanians who used to work here and were sacked get their jobs back," said Frank Mehmeti, a New Yorker of Kosovo Albanian parents, frenziedly pouring shots at the bar.

Despite the KLA offering free drinks to the journalists and aid workers who have made the Grand their temporary home, K-For troops were not so delighted. After complaints from Serbs, a section of 7th Para arrived. Unfortunately they did not feel able to enter into the spirit of things, and insisted that the bar shut at 10pm. Ernest Hemingway, who famously liberated the bar of the Crillon in Paris in 1944 would not have been impressed.

"This is freedom!" an Albanian exclaimed as the liberators danced to blaring folk music. It was free drinks, at any rate.