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Uncertain in Kosovo, Turks Find Themselves in the Crossfire

Serb action in province sets another ethnic group on edge. Ethnic Albanian chief Rugova meets Clinton today.

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For six generations, the family of Fahri Turbetari, an ethnic Turk, has stood watch over the tomb of the Sultan Murat Turbesi, the Ottoman leader who defeated the Serbs in the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje.

Serbs still speak of the battle, which led to 500 years of Ottoman occupation, as if it happened yesterday.

As Kosovo inches toward war, the ghost of Sultan Murat still lurks. This time around, ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population, are perceived by Serbs as the foreign invaders. The Albanians, who have centuries-old claims to the land, are calling for complete independence from Serbia, and some seem increasingly willing to use violence.

Guerrilla fighting and police crackdowns, which have cost close to 200 lives in recent months, are spreading through the region of 2 million people. Police this week launched a major crackdown near the Albanian border, the biggest offensive since the Feb. 28 attack in Drenica that killed more than 80 ethnic Albanians.

International diplomats are scrambling to bring the Serbs and ethnic Albanians to the negotiating table. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova remain far apart. Mr. Rugova was scheduled to meet today in Washington with President Clinton.

For the 50,000 Turks who remain in Kosovo, choosing sides has not been easy. Some line up with the Albanians, fellow Muslims with a similar culture. Others see Serbs as fellow minorities.


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