War in the Balkans The Balkan Question - Key Issues Behind The War Explained

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The Independent Online
Are the Serbs trying to get rid of all Kosovo's Albanians?

Extreme Serb nationalists dream of an "ethnically pure" Kosovo inhabited only by Christian Serbs. But Slobodan Milosevic is more pragmatic. He needs a few Albanians on the ground as a shield against air strikes and because much of Kosovo is purely Albanian and would have no people at all if "cleansed" too thoroughly.

The Serbs have tried to change the demographic balance in Kosovo before. In the Thirties the authorities imported Serb settlers and squeezed the Albanians by depriving them of access to health care, education orpower. The Serb population was boosted to a third of the local population by 1940.

President Milosevic most likely wants to achieve the same balance. Until last month, Kosovo Albanians outnumbered local Serbs by nine to one. He would like to get that back down to a more manageable three or four to one, by letting the 600,000 or so Kosovo Albanians left in the province stay in their homes and trying to stop the 800,000 refugees from returning.

Albanians would still outnumber Kosovo's 150,000 Serbs but in their reducedstate they could be more easily controlled. President Milosevic might also try to resettle Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia on a large scale in Kosovo.