Liberation of Kosovo: Nato chief appeals to the Serbs: 'Don't flee Kosovo'

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THE BRITISH commander of Nato forces in Kosovo appealed to Serbs to stay yesterday as thousands of Albanians jammed the roads returning home, while Serbs fled the opposite way.

General Sir Michael Jackson told several hundred Serbs in Kosovo Polje, near Pristina, the site of a famous 14th- century battle, that their homes would be safe under the Nato-led K-For. "I ask you most seriously to stay in your homes in Kosovo," he said to applause.

As he spoke, Albanians poured out of tent cities in Macedonia and Albania and heading home. UN officials said 1,000 an hour were going through the Blace frontier crossing in Macedonia. Traffic on the road from the Kukes camp in northern Albania via Morini to the liberated cities of Prizren, Djakovica and Pec came to a standstill.

By early evening at least 10,000 Kosovars had crossed from Albania. An entire camp in Macedonia, numbering 1,800, had gone home "as one", a spokesman for the UNHCR said. It fears the refugees will tread on mines, create a massive traffic jam and find insufficient food and fresh water in their wrecked villages.

Serbs continued to stream out, in spite of General Jackson's appeal. The province's Serb Orthodox bishop, Artemije of Prizren, joined the flight, saying he and his clergy were no longer safe.

In Belgrade the opposition Democratic Party said it believed at least 30,000 Kosovo Serbs had left the province since last week, claiming that the Belgrade authorities had done little to help them.

The Serb exodus is likely to gather speed as the Albanians' joy over their homecoming turns to anger when they discover their burned cities and dead relatives.

Villagers led K-For peace-keepers to three new suspected mass graves yesterday. They told the soldiers they believed 60 victims were buried in Bruznik, in central Kosovo, 60 at Berisht, north of Pristina and 13 at Vlastica, south-east of Pristina.

Details emerged last night of an alleged massacre in March in which 54 Kosovan Albanians are reported to have been killed by a Serb policeman in the village of Poklek near Pristina. Survivors say the Albanians, said to include 24 children, were herded into a room, and a hand-grenade was thrown inside. The man then fired on the victims.