Here is a brief profile of Kosovo, an ethnic crossroads in the heart of the Balkans and the cause of NATO’s first “humanitarian war” in 1999.
WAR * Albanians have officially demanded independence since renegade elections in 1992 made pacifist leader Ibrahim Rugova president of a self-declared republic. The demand was ignored as Serbs fought for pieces of Croatia and Bosnia, and support shifted to armed struggle by the Kosovo Liberation Army, a guerrilla force. Serb forces hit back so hard in 1998 that 100,000 Albanians fled to the hills and NATO powers warned Milosevic they would not tolerate another round of “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans. Peace talks in France failed and in March 1999 NATO started bombing to force Serbia to withdraw. Some 800,000 Albanians fled or were expelled to Macedonia and Albania before Milosevic gave in 78 days later. As his forces pulled out, up to 200,000 Serbs and other ethnic minorities left as well.