- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia The cheers that greeted the arrival of NATO forces and U.N. administrators in Kosovo three years ago have turned to anger and occasionally violent protests since the arrest of several leaders of the former Kosovo Liberation Army.
"I never thought that we'd come to the stage of protesting against them," said Sadik Halitjaha, a former KLA commander who organized several protests against the U.N. forces recently. "We never thought we would say goodbye by throwing stones at them and we hope we don't have to."
NATO forces brought an end to Serbian rule over Kosovo, the Albanian-majority province of Serbia where the KLA was fighting for independence.
"We greeted them with flowers and we hoped we would send them off in the same way," said Mr. Halitjaha, who is now the president of the Association of War Veterans of the KLA.
All that changed when the U.N. forces started arresting KLA war heroes and began a rapprochement with the Serbian authorities.
Last month, Rrustem Mustafa, a former top KLA commander, was arrested on charges of murder, torture and illegal detention of Serbian captives. The next day, U.N. officials announced the indictment of another top commander, Ramush Haradinaj, for his role in a shootout with a rival Albanian family after the war.
Six others, including Mr. Haradinaj's brother, Daut, were arrested in June on the same charges, and three other former KLA members were arrested in January.
Kosovo's prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi, condemned the arrests and called the detainees "political prisoners." Posters of Mr. Mustafa, posing with children and smiling, are now all over Pristina.
Though the United Nations says the timing of the arrests is coincidental, coming after long investigations, many Albanians see it as a coordinated crackdown on the former KLA.
Large protests have followed each of the arrests, and they have become more violent. In Decani last month, a protest ended in clashes that left 52 civilians, 11 police officers and three peacekeeping soldiers injured.
"UNMIK is doing the work that Serbs did before," said Mr. Halitjaha, using the acronym for the U.N. Mission in Kosovo.
Even centrist Albanians complain that the Kosovo government and parliament, elected last year, have no power, their decisions subject to veto by U.N. officials.
The overwhelming majority of Albanians in Kosovo want independence, though the province is still nominally part of Serbia and Yugoslavia while it is temporarily administered by the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the government in Belgrade has been more actively cooperating with the U.N. mission since former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic fell from power in 2000. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is in charge of Kosovo, visits Pristina frequently.

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