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Daily Trip Report - March 18, 2004
This morning, when I went out for a walk, I counted fifteen KFOR tanks and APCs blocking the road at the top of the hill. When I returned later this afternoon, I could see crowds on the top of the hill trying to flank the roadblock, and clouds of tear gas. Later, I am told, the Prime Minister went to the scene (I saw his motorcade rushing through the center of town, sirens and lights going full force) and asked the crowd to disperse. They did. Thaqi aborted his stay in the US and was back in country this evening and made the same request.
We drove past the Serb enclave at Fushe Kosova-the one on the route to the airport--twice today. Last night, Kosovar Albanian's torched the new school and another building in the enclave. Today at 0930 and again at about 1230 no crowds were visible at the site.
There was however a large demonstration in Klina-between Prishtina and Peja-which caused us to have to find a detour around Klina.
This evening, crowds of very young people were marching past the Grand Hotel, blowing whistles and changing "UCK, UCK!"-the Albanian letters for KLA. Their target was apparently the UN Headquarters. By 2030, when a local lawyer and I tried to go to his office, the street behind the Grand Hotel was filled with UN riot police, several of whom challenged us aggressively, automatic weapons at the ready, "Halt! Halt! Take your hands out of your pockets!" The lawyer kept walking toward them. I stopped and made sure my hands were out of my pockets. One of police officers was from Springfield, IL, and grew friendlier when he found out I was from Chicago.
I talked to several young people, whose anger seems focused on the UN and on a demand that the Kosovar Assembly declare independence immediately. Unfortunately most of the violence so far has been directed at Serbs. These same sources think the call by the Prime Minister and Thaqi will have a calming effect.
I'm scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister in the morning. I will be surprised if he does not cancel the meeting with everything that is going on, but if I meet with him I will have more to report later.
You're going to have to update the tourism brochure to tell potential customers that they may have a chance to see local citizens torching UN police vehicles if they come on the tour.
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