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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 19:23 GMT

Funding the KLA

Albanians in exile send millions of dollars to support the KLA

By Jon Leyne in New York

Jon Leyne reports from Yonkers in New York
While Washington has been pressing the Kosovar Albanians to accept peace, American Albanians have been working flat out to raise money to buy arms to continue the fight for independence.

In the New York suburb of Yonkers rallies are held to raise tens of millions of dollars - and support is growing all the time.

[ image: Over 200,000 Kosovar Albanians live in New York]
Over 200,000 Kosovar Albanians live in New York
They say whatever happens at the peace talks they will continue collecting money for weapons.

"This is only the beginning" says KLA fundraiser Mustaf Ahmetaj. "It will continue until the end - until we have a sovereign and independent Kosovo."

Despite a UN arms embargo such fundraising is quite legal in the US.

Fundraising network

Kosovo strikes
Nonetheless such gatherings are giving a momentum to the KLA that is very hard to stop.

They are building up a network for fundraising and political support. The clear message is that whatever happens at the peace talks, they are not going to stop their fight short of full independence.

More than 200,000 Albanians live in New York.

At an Albanian cafe in the city one man who lost seven members of his family to the fighting, before himself fleeing into exile, told me he sent three quarters of his income back to Kosovo, half of which goes to the KLA.

He said that left him with just the bare minumum to live on.

Playing tough

[ image: Most of the arms sent are seized by the Serbs]
Most of the arms sent are seized by the Serbs
Many of the arms his money helps to pay for are seized by the Serbs.

The arms that reach the KLA do not change the military balance, but they do give the KLA leadership the self-confidence to play tough in the peace talks.

Despite talk of pressing both sides to make peace, US officials have made no attempt to curtail the fundraising.

Some Albanian activists believe they actually have the tacit approval of Washington.

Whether or not that is the case the Albanian community in the US seems unlikely to give up easily on its goal of an independent Kosovo, free from control by the Serbs.

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