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Sunday, June 6, 1999 Published at 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK

World: Europe

Piecing Kosovo together

Ethnic Albanians may not be able to forgive and forget

By BBC News Online's Kate Goldberg

War in Kosovo may be ending, but for the people who once inhabited the province, the challenge of rebuilding their lives is just beginning.

Kosovo: Special Report
Hundreds of thousands of Albanians have been forced from their home since the fighting began.

Thousands more are still missing, feared dead.

Those who survived will be going back to a land that has been heavily mined, with little remaining infrastructure, and more than 80% of the houses destroyed.

They will also be going back to a deep sense of Serb humiliation - that could easily turn to heightened ethnic hatred.

Nato has already warned both sides not to take advantage of withdrawing Yugoslav troops to exact reprisals.

Facing the enemy

But there is also speculation that Serbs will not want to stay in the province at all.

"I don't think that Kosovo is going to be a very happy place for Serbs," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said.

[ image: Children of Kosovo step into parents' shoes]
Children of Kosovo step into parents' shoes
The Albanians will be bringing little back with them, except memories of their treatment at the hands of the Serbs.

One of the latest groups of refugees to flee the province told horrific stories of their imprisonment at a Serb jail within Kosovo.

Many prisoners said their captors had instructed local Serb children to beat them with iron bars.

Such an experience would leave lasting scars - with both the victims and the child aggressors.

Both sides have shown that they do not forget easily - the dispute between Serbs and Albanians over Kosovo has already gone on for centuries.

With Nato action, it has finally reached a climax.

But it remains to be seen whether Serbs and Albanians will ever be able to live side by side with each other again.

Serbs alienated

The Serbs have been left to nurture a growing sense of isolation.

[ image: A Serb in Pristina read the death-notices for people killed in Nato strikes]
A Serb in Pristina read the death-notices for people killed in Nato strikes
With Nato estimates of between 5,000 and 10,000 Yugoslav casualties, the army is severely demoralised.

There are many reports of Serb deserters - and a Yugoslav court has already sentenced several to jail.

Shunned at home, and despised in Kosovo, some have also been accused of looting homes abandoned by Albanian refugees.

The discarded ruins of Kosovo, it seems, have become a Serb free-for-all.

War of words

As if to distance themselves from the province, the Yugoslav media have started making a distinction between Serbia and Kosovo.

[ image: KLA: Still suspicious]
KLA: Still suspicious
"For the first time since the beginning of the aggression Nato aircraft did not strike targets in Serbia," announced Pancevo Radio, after a day when 30 missiles were reported to have hit Kosovo.

Yugoslavia has justified the war repeatedly on the grounds that Kosovo was the cradle of Serbian civilisation.

It now seems that the media at least are prepared to relinquish the province to Nato control.

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