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Tuesday, March 3, 1998 Published at 21:47 GMT

World: Europe

Huge turn-out at Kosovo funerals
image: [ A boy raises the victory sign at the funerals in Kosovo ]
A boy raises the victory sign at the funerals in Kosovo

The BBC's Karen Coleman at the funeral: "no great show of emotion" (1'12")
Tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians have taken part in funeral services in the disputed province of Kosovo for some of the people killed in clashes with Serbian police at the weekend.

Albanian sources have claimed at least 20 ethnic Albanians died in the disturbances, with many more being beaten.

The funerals took place in two villages outside the capital, Pristina.

A BBC correspondent who attended the funerals said the bodies of the victims were carried silently to a burial site high on a hill overlooking those houses that came under attack in the fighting on Saturday.

Each was draped in the Albanian flag with its red background and double-headed black eagle.

[ image: Each body was draped in the Albanian flag]
Each body was draped in the Albanian flag
The crowd silently raised their arms and gave the symbol of victory in what was a show of defiance against the Serb authorities.

A bloody confrontation

The members of one family have alleged that ten of their male relatives, including fathers and brothers, were massacred by the police in the raids on Saturday.

One woman who lost her father, brother and uncles, described how the police entered their house, beat some of them up and then took their men outside.

However, the Serbian authorities said the fatalities occurred during a police raid on members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group who killed two Serbian policeman in an ambush in the area last Friday.

A total of four Serbian policemen were killed in the fighting.

Large numbers of protestors took to the streets of Pristina on Monday to protest about the clashes, but they were dispersed by police using teargas, batons and water cannon.

Violence condemned abroad

The latest violence has been widely condemned, with the European Union calling on the President of the Yugoslav federation, Slobodan Milosevic, to engage in dialogue with the ethnic Albanians and to restore the autonomy of Kosovo.

[ image:  ]
Its autonomous status was revoked by Mr Milosevic in 1989, provoking a campaign of civil disobedience against rule from Belgrade by the province's overwhelming ethnic Albanian majority.

Britain, which currently holds the EU presidency, called on both sides to abstain from violence, and is sending its foreign secretary, Robin Cook, for talks in Belgrade.

Albania has called on the authorities in Belgrade to stop the violence, which it says could destabilise the region.

James Rubin, the US State Department spokesperson, said Washington had protested to Belgrade and warned Slobodan Milosevic that existing financial sanctions crippling his economy would remain until he took "meaningful steps to address the legitimate grievances of the Kosovo Albanian community".

Ninety per cent of the people in Kosovo are ethnic Albanians, but the Serbs see Kosovo as the cradle of their culture and refuse to give it up.

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