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Wednesday, February 3, 1999 Published at 14:44 GMT

World: Europe

Pristina waits for war

Pristina residents fear their city becoming a new Sarajevo

By Ben Brown in the Kosovo capital.

The rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army have thought long and hard about whether they should attend peace talks in Paris at the weekend.

Kosovo Section
Some wanted to boycott it because they said the independence they demand is not on the table. Others insisted they must give peace a chance and it is they who have won out. The KLA negotiators will turn up in France.

[ image: Fear of terrorist attacks mean this Albanian bar is packed during the day but empty at night]
Fear of terrorist attacks mean this Albanian bar is packed during the day but empty at night
KLA spokesman Jakip Krasniqi is clear about what they hope to achieve: "We are definitely going to the talks, with our proposals, which are that, in three years' time, we should have a referendum of all the people in Kosovo on self-determination."

For now, though, the killing goes on and it has taken a new turn with a spate of terrorist attacks on bars and cafes in the capital, Pristina.

Ben Brown: "The killing goes on and it's taken a new turn"
Both Serb and Albanian civilians have been targeted but spokesman Radovan Urosevic of the Serbian Media Centre says the Serbs, outnumbered ten to one, are especially vulnerable:

"Not many Serbs can you now find after three pm or four pm. Nobody travels during the night because people are scared. The KLA is again on the roads."

At lunchtime in an Albanian bar I visited it is busy but, at night, it is a different story. Like the Serbs, many Albanians dare not venture out after dark.

[ image: The wreckage of this bar is just one example of the recent attacks]
The wreckage of this bar is just one example of the recent attacks
There is an unofficial segregation in Pristina. Each community sticks to its own cafes and clubs, so they are easy targets for extremists.

One Albanian resident, Linda Gusia told me: "It's terrifying because it's different when you go and fight with a gun and it's different when you die drinking coffee. It's really stupid when you die drinking coffee. It's terrifying. You don't feel safe anywhere. You have this feeling of insecurity wherever you go."

Until recently, most of this conflict has been confined to the countryside but in the capital Pristina there is a palpable sense of fear that it, too, could be engulfed in the fighting if the peace talks fail.

For the residents of the city, the ultimate nightmare is that their hometown could become another Sarajevo.

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