NATO Rushes to Restore Calm; Outbreak of Ethnic Violence Leaves at Least 28 Dead

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Byline: Sharon Behn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

U.S. and European officials scrambled yesterday to restore calm in Kosovo after an eruption of violence left 28 dead in the troubled province of Serbia and Montenegro.

NATO moved quickly to reinforce its troops in Kosovo with up to 350 soldiers from Bosnia-Herzegovina, including lead elements of British and French battalions.

More than 2,000 Italian, German and Romanian troops were expected to augment the effort in the coming days, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

"The point here is that [the NATO-led force] is taking strong action to restore stability and protect all the residents of Kosovo," the spokesman said.

With memories still fresh of the 1998 massacres of Kosovoan Albanians by neighboring Serbs and the resulting war that left 10,000 dead, European, U.S. and regional diplomats rushed to contain the unrest that erupted Tuesday.

Mobs of ethnic Albanians yesterday rampaged again through villages, looting apartments hastily abandoned by minority Serbs fleeing the violence that injured hundreds of people, peacekeepers and police. Serbian Orthodox churches were a particular target.

The violence exposed the continuing deep divisions between Kosovo's mostly Muslim ethnic Albanians, who want independence from Serbia and Montenegro, and Orthodox Christian Serbs, a minority in Kosovo who consider the province their ancient homeland.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with Serbian Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic yesterday. Adm. Gregory Johnson, who commands NATO forces in southern Europe, said the violence amounted to "ethnic cleansing."

American peacekeepers in full body armor blocked the main road leading to the province's north in a bid to stop the violence from spreading, searching cars and people for signs of troublemakers and weapons. …