Pristina's university reclaimed

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The Independent Online
AS THE wretched Serb exodus from Kosovo continued, ethnic Albanians yesterday reclaimed one of the province's cultural citadels, returning to the main campus of Pristina university from which they were banished 10 years ago.

"A ghost once said we would never step into this university again," said the rector, Zenel Kelmendi, speaking of the Serb official who had given the order to leave in 1989, forcing the ethnic Albanians to take their classes underground. "But we are back here now and we are here to stay."

The return to the university, where Mr Kelmendi was addressing an estimated crowd of 5,000 students, came as hundreds of ethnic Albanian postal workers went back to their jobs from which they were expelled by the Serbs. Welcoming them back, Bernard Kouchner, head of the United Nations operation in Kosovo, announced a $1.5m (pounds 940,000) programme to help overhaul the province's antiquated and war-damaged telecommunications network.

In terms of emotionalism and symbolism, however, the ceremony at the post office headquarters in the centre of Kosovo's capital paled beside the return to the campus. Although the occasion was joyous, with folksingers and dancers, the shadow of recent events hung heavy over proceedings.

"We will never allow the university of Kosovo to be ethnically pure," Mr Kelmendi vowed, promising a campus that would be "free, open and democratic". But standing beside him was Hasim Thaci, political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

All classes will henceforth be held in Albanian, and there seems little likelihood of Serbs - who reportedly removed all the equipment they could - ever returning in any number.

Indeed, despite the gradual introduction of UN civilian police and a co-ordinated attempt to crack down on Albanian reprisals, Serbs are continuing to abandon Kosovo in droves.

The latest incident, on Sunday, was the bombing of an Orthodox church in central Kosovo, despite repeated warnings from the Serbian clergy that the building was likely to be attacked. In eastern Kosovo, United States troops from the peace-keeping force, K-For, escorted a column of vehicles carrying 150 Serb refugees through a gauntlet of taunts and jeers from ethnic Albanians across the border to Serbia.

Mr Kouchner told reporters that mass graves across Kosovo were now estimated to contain 11,000 bodies of Albanians killed by Serbs just before or during the Nato bombing. In retaliation, Serbs have been the targets of murder, looting and arson by the Albanian majority.

According to Human Rights Watch, some 164,000 Serbs and Roma (gypsies) have left in the seven weeks since Yugoslav forces withdrew - a figure implying, if true, that more than half the estimated 200,000 Serbs who once lived in Kosovo have fled. Some towns and villages appear in practice to be run by the KLA - or by gangsters and racketeers from Albania.

t A Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect was flown to The Hague after being arrested yesterday by Nato peace-keepers, to face trial on charges of enslaving and raping Muslim women in Bosnia in 1992 and 1993. Radomir Kovac, 38, was arrested in his apartment at Foca in the French-controlled sector in south-eastern Bosnia.