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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 15:19 GMT
Media fan Kosovo flames
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In Kosovo, Serbian and Albanian media have very different views of the latest ethnic clashes.

Both sides broadcast appeals for calm from local leaders but their press, radio and TV also aired opinions bordering on incitement.

For the Serbian media, the focus was hundreds of ethnic Serbs being burned out of their homes by Kosovar "terrorists".

The Kosovo Albanian media highlighted the drowning of two, possibly three children in Mitrovica at the hands, it said, of local Serbs.

"Kosovo Polje, which has about 100 Serb houses, was set on fire by Albanians last night, and the village is still burning. Albanian flags were raised over the local school and the post office building," announced Radio Belgrade.

The people of Kosovo will no longer tolerate Serb criminal gangs in Mitrovica
Kosovo Albanian TV

"All Orthodox church facilities in Prizren were burned down, including a 14th century church," the radio said. "Houses, health clinics, schools, and religious buildings were all the target of terrorists."

It did not mention in its main news bulletins the deaths of the ethnic Albanian children reported by international media to have triggered the Mitrovica clashes.

Instead, its correspondent in the region said: "As of this morning, Pristina is yet another town where there are no longer any Serbs."

He listed a string of places - Lipljan, Kosovo Polje, Kosovska Vitina, Gnjilane, villages around Pec and Vlajkovce - where he said Serbs had been killed and houses, churches and monasteries set ablaze.

What was the trigger?

In its main evening news on Wednesday, the second day of unrest, Kosovo Albanian TV said the protest in Mitrovica "escalated into clashes between Albanian protesters and Serbian groups after the tragic loss of three children in Ibar River."

Kosovo Albanian Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi visited the village of Caber to meet the families of the dead children, and carried updates on the search for a third missing child, it said.

It did not report ethnic Albanians burning Serb families out of their homes. Instead, it reported "clashes" at a village "where Albanian protesters attempted to open the road that had been blocked for two days by local Serbs."

It said there were "heavy clashes" in Kosovo Polje and reported houses on fire there.

"The people of Kosovo will no longer tolerate the operation of parallel structures and Serb criminal gangs in Mitrovica or elsewhere in Kosovo," Kosovo TV said, broadcasting a statement issued by the Kosovo parliament.

Calls for calm?

Kosovo TV broadcast an appeal by Mr Rexhepi urging citizens to stay out of trouble. It aired a similar appeal by Unmik chief Harri Holkeri calling on Kosovars to be calm.

In neighbouring Albania, state TV reported Prime Minister Fatos Nano urging the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo to show self-restraint.

But Serbian TV broadcast a speech by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in Belgrade blaming organised Albanian separatists.

"The events in northern Kosovo-Metohija reveal the true nature of Albanian separatism, its violent and terrorist nature," he said. The government was not able directly to defend Serbs in Kosovo but would "do all it can to stop the terror in Kosovo".

Serbia's press fury

"War in Kosovo" said the banner headline in the Serbian daily Glas Javnosti on Thursday. It described street protests in Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Nis, and pictured fires at mosques in Belgrade and Nis.

Serbia's Danas daily said the Orthodox Church and Kosovo Serbs "have no confidence in the Kosovo police" which is run by "former members of the OVK (Kosovo Liberation Army)".

Politika described the violence in Mitrovica, saying "thousands of Albanians crossed into the northern part of the town." Pro-government daily Ekspres said Albanians were "attacking Serbs throughout the province".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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