kosovo

^PM-Yugoslavia-Kosovo, 3rd Ld-Writethru, a0504,0924
^Largest demonstration in 10 years in Kosovo as world powers meet
^Eds: LEADS throughout to UPDATE with ethnic Albanians saying at least 62 killed last week, including children; cameraman beaten at today's protest, police action reported in two towns, denied by Serbs. DELETES outdated material. No pickup.
^AP Photos XLDC101-102
^With PM-Kosovo Conference, Bjt
^By DUSAN STOJANOVIC= ^Associated Press Writer=
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) Tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians held their biggest demonstration in decades today to protest a deadly crackdown by Serb police. In London, foreign leaders met to weigh sanctions in the killings.
Ethnic Albanians said at least 62 people, including 14 women and 12 children, old men and entire families, died in the second of two police sweeps last week through the separatist-minded, ethnic Albanian-majority province of Kosovo.
``The Serb regime has committed an atrocity,'' declared Enver Maloku, spokesman for the ethnic Albanians' Kosovo Information Center, adding that some bodies were so badly burned they could not be identified.
His account could not be independently confirmed.
The official death toll from two police offensives last week in villages west of Kosovo's capital, Pristina, says that 46 Albanians and six Serb policemen were killed. Serbia has called it a justifiable crackdown on increasingly aggressive separatist militants.
On Sunday evening, police moved the bodies of the ethnic Albanian back from Pristina to the town of Srbica, the center of last week's crackdown about 25 miles west of Pristina. Police turned back reporters trying to reach Srbica.
Busloads of heavily armed security forces still were moving through the region today, one day after the Serbs declared their latest four-day operation over.
Relatives were refusing to pick up the bodies of those killed, demanding that international forensics experts examine them first, Maloku said. He said the Serbs were anxious to hold funerals Tuesday.
In Pristina today, for the first time since the restive province of Kosovo was stripped of autonomy in 1989, police made no attempt to interfere with a protest by ethnic Albanians. Riot squads waited out the 50-minute rally in buses in side streets.
A similar protest in Pristina last week ended with riot police lobbing tear gas and clubbing fleeing demonstrators.
The lack of police intervention this time was a clear sign that Serbian authorities did not want violence on the day of the international meeting in London. A policeman who spoke on condition of anonymity said police were given orders not to beat protesters.
However, Chris Wenner, a cameraman for ITN in London, was pummeled by three Serbs after he filmed one of them waving a gun at the Albanian protesters and kissing it.
Ethnic Albanians also took to the streets in at least three other towns. Albanians reported 17,000 in the nothern Kosovo town of Mitrovica, 7,000 in the western town of Pec, and 1,000 in Podujevo.
Journalists at the Albanian language weekly Koha Ditore said Serbian police moved against crowds in the towns of Pec and Klina, but Serb sources denied that.
In Pristina, protesters flashed the victory sign and chanted ``Drenica,'' the region that has seen some of the worst police crackdowns over the past week.
``All we need are weapons to fight the Serb power,'' said architecture student Visar Bajraktar. He and his companions expressed surprise that police did not intervene, and said they would attend daily protests to press their cause of freedom from Serbia.
Serbia, the most powerful of two republics in the Yugoslav federation, is determined to hang on to Kosovo, which Serbs value both for the territory and as the scene of a pivotal 14th-century battle between Serbs and Ottoman invaders.
The last peaceful demonstrations in Kosovo were in 1988, months before Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic stripped the province of its autonomy. Serbs, outnumbered in Kosovo 9-to-1 by ethnic Albanians, have ruled with heavy police presence ever since.
Police with submachine guns and clad in bullet-proof vests lined up in front of buildings, watching as the crowd marched past, bearing signs that read ``We'll give our lives, but won't give up Kosovo'' and ``Stop Serbian Terror.''
Seeking to end the violence, a U.S. delegation met today in London with envoys of other powers of the Contact Group, which was set up during the Bosnian War to help bring peace to the Balkans.
Russia, a traditional Serbian ally, follows Milosevic in arguing that the conflict is purely an internal matter; the United States refuses to rule out foreign intervention if necessary to avoid another Balkan tragedy.
Foreign leaders are especially anxious to keep Kosovo's troubles from spilling over into neighboring countries. Media in neighboring Montenegro reported that about 3,500 Albanians have fled Kosovo into their country in the past two days.
Journalists and other outsiders, kept away from the fighting, were finally allowed into the embattled region on Sunday. Authorities took reporters and diplomats on bus tours of Donji Prekaz and other virtually deserted villages whose Albanian residents had fled.
In Donji Prekaz, a prime target of the Serbs, about half the village's 50 houses had been destroyed or heavily damaged, with gaping holes in facades from heavy weapons, charred or bullet-riddled walls and shattered windows.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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