Yugoslavs Chase Albanians Waiting for U.S. Senators
Riot policemen swinging batons and firing tear gas on Wednesday dispersed thousands of ethnic Albanians awaiting a U.S. congressional delegation so that they could complain about what they call human rights abuses.
About 10,000 people chanting, “Freedom! Freedom!” and “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” gathered in front of a downtown hotel where the delegation of seven senators was expected to hold talks with leaders of the ethnic Albanian majority in the southern Kosovo province.
A radio report said six people were injured and six arrested.
The delegation, headed by Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), arrived in Pristina three hours after the clash and was driven under heavy police escort to a hotel for a meeting with leaders of dissident Albanian groups. Another meeting with the leaders of the rival Serbian community also was planned.
“We will talk to the senators about the unbearable conditions for Albanians in Kosovo and about the fact that our political parties are still illegal,” said Ibrahim Rugova, head of the 500,000-member Democratic Union, the largest ethnic Albanian political party in the region.
“The senators will see for themselves what kind of police repression we live under,” Rugova said.
Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90% of Kosovo’s 1.9-million people, are protesting last month’s decision by the Communist authorities of Serbia to reduce Kosovo’s autonomy. Kosovo is an administrative district of Serbia, Yugoslavia’s largest republic.
Kosovo has been the site of tension between ethnic Albanians and Slavs since Serbia began to restrict the province’s self-government last year.
The crowd waiting for the Dole delegation thinned when speakers announced that it would not arrive until early afternoon. But a group of several thousand people refused to disperse and continued to chant until the police officers charged.
Within a few minutes, the entire downtown area was cleared of protesters, who had pelted policemen with stones and bottles. Officers patrolled the streets in armored vehicles after the clash and ordered groups of more than five people to disperse.