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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

KLA Denies Group's Soldiers Take Part in Revenge Attacks




PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- Kosovo's former rebels are denying any role in the systematic expulsion of Serbs and Gypsies from the province and are asking NATO-led peacekeepers for help in putting a stop to atrocities against non-Albanian ethnic groups.


In an 18-page report released Tuesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch charged that Serbs and Gypsies are being harassed, beaten and murdered in what looks like a systematic effort to force them out of Kosovo.


The human rights organization said NATO seems ill-equipped to stop it.


A regional spokesman for the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, Lirak Celaj, denied that the rebel command had any role in the atrocities.


"It is not true that KLA is doing it,'' Celaj said Tuesday. "That is why we are asking for more close cooperation with KFOR,'' referring to the NATO-led peacekeepers by their official name. "We would like to find out who are those people who are shaming the KLA.''


Celaj noted that KLA uniforms are easily obtained at shops across the border in Albania. "We fought so that our people could live free,'' he added. "We didn't fight to bring sadness to other people like we had.''


The reports have troubling implications for the Western leaders, who justified their 11-week NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia by asserting that the goal was a peaceful, multiethnic Kosovo.


Such visitors as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have pleaded with ethnic Albanians to end the violence.


State-run media and senior government officials intensified their campaign against the opposition Tuesday and accused the United States of trying to conquer Serbia by putting President Slobodan Milosevic's opponents in power.


They issued their criticism a day after independent opposition figures called for a transitional government to replace Milosevic. It is intended to unify the divided opposition groups in Serbia, the dominant of only two republics remaining in the Yugoslav Federation.