`The problem isn't solved ... Serbs will keep everything'

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The Independent Online
IN THE cafes of Pristina, and the refugees camps of central Kosovo, reaction from ethnic Albanians yesterday to the West's deal with Belgrade ranged from suspicion to outright hostility.

There was disappointment that air strikes had not been carried out and rejection of the international plan for autonomy, rather than full independence.

"The problem here is still not solved," said one ethnic Albanian man. "The Serbians are going to keep everything in their hands. There is nothing changed for us."

Amid the drizzling rain, mud and makeshift shelters of one refugee camp in central Kosovo, people were extremely cautious about promises that Yugoslav forces would leave their villages. "No one dares to go back yet," said Tahire Nuhaj, a mother of six children. "They [the Serbian police] are shooting as much as they can."

One man said he was reluctant to trust Serbian promises as his 78-year- old father had been shot by the police, despite earlier official reassurances that he would be safe to return home.

"My father believed Milosevic's words when he said they would not hurt any innocent people," the man said. "Now Milosevic will betray the world's trust, too."

People may start leaving the hills for the villages once the international monitors arrive. But a more enduring obstacle to a settlement is the almost universal desire among ethnic Albanians for independence from Serbia.

Professor Alush Gashi, foreign affairs spokesman for the main ethnic Albanian political party, the LDK, said negotiations with Belgrade should be without pre-conditions of any kind. "All Albanians in Kosovo agree one very basic principle, which is freedom and independence for Kosovo," he said.

Adem Demaci, the political representative of the Kosovo Liberation Army, said the organisation would not be satisfied with autonomy. "It is not enough," he said. "Independence is the sine qua non for the KLA." Other KLA sources have suggested that while their ceasefire will stay in place, the armed struggle is not being abandoned.

President Milosevic yesterday gave a televised address to the nation. He said air strikes had been averted and the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia had been preserved.

He made no specific mention of the international plans for autonomy for Kosovo, still less of any talks with the ethnic Albanians about their desire for independence.

"Dear citizens," he began, on the broadcast. "The agreements avert the danger of a military intervention against our country. As regards a political solution, this will be geared towards the affirmation of the ethnic equality of all citizens and all ethnic groups in Kosovo."

The UN aid agency, the UNHCR, said it would move quickly to make aid available to refugees. The first convoys since delivery was suspended would leave this morning, a spokesman said.

An immediate crisis may have been averted, but the needs of the refugees, and the political obstacles all point to a long, complicated and progressively deepening involvement by the international community in Kosovo.

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