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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Albanians Cheer Albright in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, greeted by ethnic Albanians as a liberator, pledged Thursday that "as long as you choose, Kosovo will remain your home."

"You have been through a terrible ordeal this past year. ... Much has been lost and cannot be regained," Albright, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Serbian province since the 78-day NATO air war, told a cheering crowd.

About 2,000 Albanians, many chanting "U.S.A.," turned out to greet Albright, whom they affectionately call "Nona," or Mother. U.S. Albanian and British flags waved in the crowd.

The secretary of state came to the provincial capital for a firsthand look at postwar reconstruction. The crowd responded enthusiastically when she declared that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "should answer for his crimes."

Albright went first to the headquarters of the NATO peacekeeping force, known as KFOR, where she met with the NATO commander, Lieutenant General Mike Jackson of Britain and the chief UN administrator in the province, Bernard Kouchner of France.

"Obviously there's a lot of work to be done, but there's also a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and willingness to work," Albright said after the briefings.

When asked about what she would say to local Serb leaders in a meeting later, she said: "I will tell them that the system is here to protect them. ... But don't forget that some disgusting things happened here. But we want them to stay if we want to build a multiethnic Kosovo."

Albright was to meet with U.S. peacekeepers in Kosovo, plus officials of the Kosovo Liberation Army and political influence groups. She also was expected to fly over some areas where there is evidence of atrocities from the Serbian offensive against the province, aides said.

Following the Kosovo visit, Albright will join U.S. President Bill Clinton on Friday for a conference in Sarajevo with other world leaders on Balkans reconstruction. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will not be there.

NATO officials announced Wednesday that four suspects had been detained in connection with the killing of 14 Serb farmers, but offered no word on their ethnicity or other details.

The attack in a nearby farm field further undermined already shaky Serb confidence in NATO's peacekeeping mission and its pledge to protect all ethnic groups in Kosovo under the peace agreement that ended the NATO airstrikes.