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Rather Than Mass Killing, Serbs Are Forcing Rebels to Care for Refugees

Recent mass-grave claims and 'ethnic cleansing' charges are played down by West.

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The body of Xhelal Ejudi, an ethnic Albanian, is buried beneath a heap of garbage and marked by a sun-bleached wooden stake. The body of Eshref Shehu, killed three weeks ago, lies under cans, flattened plastic bottles, and an old sneaker.

The crude graveyard is tucked in the hills just outside Orahovac, where Serbian forces last month battled with ethnic Albanian rebels seeking independence for Kosovo. There are 25 stakes, but it is unclear exactly what lies below ground.

Serbian authorities confirmed that they collected 58 bodies after the fighting in Orahovac. They held most of them unclaimed for a week in the nearby city of Prizren and buried the remainder between July 20 and Aug. 3.

Reports of the trash-dump graveyard, and of some 200,000 displaced persons, have sent a wave of fear through Kosovo.

"This is like Bosnia, with ethnic cleansing, house-burning, and mass graves," says Sylejman Canta, a grape farmer from Orahovac who last week watched from a hill as a bulldozer dug the graveyard. Mr. Canta was one of the few who had returned after having fled the fighting.

But international officials have made distinctions between what happened in Bosnia during its 1992-95 civil war and what is taking place in Serbia's independence-seeking southern province.

More than 400 people have died in Kosovo since fighting erupted Feb. 28, but the international community has stopped short of using force to stop the violence.

European Union monitors visited Orahovac Aug. 5 and said there was no evidence of a "mass grave." Unlike in Bosnia, efforts had been made to identify the dead. And during a recent interview, a senior Western diplomat was careful not to use the phrase "ethnic cleansing," a term coined in Bosnia when ethnic groups were forced out and replaced with other nationalities in an effort to create ethnically pure regions.

"You bet it's disturbing," says the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. But "I don't think the [Serbian authorities] are looking to replace the Albanian people with Serbian people."


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