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World - Europe

Clinton leaves Balkans hailed a hero by Kosovar Albanians

President Clinton speaks to U.S. personnel at Aviano Air Base in Italy

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CNN's Jim Clancy reports on opposition efforts in Belgrade. (June 22)
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The flow of refugees back into Kosovo is increasing, despite the risks. CNN's Matthew Chance reports. (June 21)
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Officials: Peacekeepers killed while clearing NATO bombs from village

Rebuilding Kosovo
Focus on Kosovo

June 23, 1999
Web posted at: 1:15 a.m. EDT (0515 GMT)

In this story:

Thanking the Balkan neighbors


SKOPJE, Macedonia (CNN) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton completed a triumphant visit to the Balkans Tuesday, greeting both KFOR troops and the Kosovar Albanian refugees.

He wrapped up his busy day praising U.S. pilots at Aviano Air Base, in Italy, thanking them for their 11-week air campaign that forced Yugoslavia to accept a Western peace plan for Kosovo.

Clinton returned to the White House early Wednesday.

"You have repeatedly put your lives on the line to save the lives of innocent civilians and turn back the tide of ethnic cleansing," said Clinton, whose remarks were punctuated by frequent cheers. "Thank you again for this noble endeavor."

Earlier, he thanked Macedonia for its help in supporting NATO's campaign against Yugoslavia and sheltering the refugees.

"No one ever, ever should be punished and discriminated against or killed or uprooted because of their religion or ethnic heritage," Clinton told hundreds of cheering, chanting refugees at the Stenkovec camp, less than 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the Kosovo border.

The refugees gave Clinton a hero's welcome as he and his family toured the muddy tent city. Stenkovec housed some 30,000 refugees at the height of Operation Allied Force, NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

Since the end of that campaign and the withdrawal of Serb troops from Kosovo, about 20,000 ethnic Albanians have returned home from Stenkovec. Clinton urged the remaining refugees to wait "a couple more weeks" while NATO forces remove land mines and other unexploded ordnance from the region.

"I don't want anyone else to lose an arm or a leg or a child because of land mines," he said. "Please be patient with us ... you are going to be able to go back. I want to make sure it is a happy return."

After his visit to the refugee camp, Clinton -- accompanied by KFOR commander Lt. Gen. Mike Jackson and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark -- addressed troops waiting to enter Kosovo.

He told the largely American group of military personnel that it has "a big, big job" ahead to "show that people can lay down their hatreds."

"People who come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds can live together if they simply respect each other's God given dignity," Clinton said. "Now what it rides on is not the precision of our bombs, not our power to destroy, but your power to build."

Thanking the Balkan neighbors

Clinton arrived in Macedonia's capital Tuesday from a visit to Slovenia, greeted by Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov. The Macedonian leader said after meeting with Clinton that he understood the need for the U.S. presence in the Balkans.

"The war in Bosnia and now in Kosovo have confirmed this," Gligorov said.

Clinton, who also met with President Rexhep Meidani of Albania, later thanked the Macedonian people for their assistance during the Kosovo conflict.

"NATO could not have achieved its mission without you," he said, speaking at the Macedonian parliament. "The people of Kosovo would not be going home to security and autonomy without you. I came here as much as anything else to say thank you."

Refugees greeted Clinton as a conquering hero in Stenkovec refugee camp  

Clinton also pledged $12 million in food commodities for the financially strapped country, which housed up to 140,000 refugees while NATO bombs tried to drive Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. The United States has already sent $72 million in relief to Macedonia, which broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Monday's trip marked Clinton's first to the front lines of the battle he and his NATO allies won against what he called the "murderous rule" of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Clinton is wrapping up a week-long trip that won support from the European Union to help in the costly reconstruction of Kosovo.

"We must build a Europe with no front-line states, a Europe undivided, democratic and at peace for the first time in history," he declared before leaving Slovenia for Skopje.

Correspondents Matthew Chance and Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.

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June 20, 1999
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June 18, 1999
Agreement reached on Russian role in Kosovo force
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June 18, 1999
U.N. wants 2 weeks before Kosovar refugees return
June 18, 1999

  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosovo - from

  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

Resettlement Agencies Helping Kosovars in U.S.:
  • Church World Service
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
  • Iowa Department of Human Services
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Immigration and Refugee Services of America
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
  • United States Catholic Conference

  • World Relief
  • Doctors without borders
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
  • Doctors of the World
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Mercy International

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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