Refugees say their future hangs on NATO ground force

While the US public's support for the NATO bombing campaign is wavering, the Kosovar refugees are adamant about its necessity, according to a new Monitor/TIPP poll.

Almost all - 98 percent of those polled - say they support the campaign.

Those interviewed say NATO is their best hope to return home.

"Our future is almost 100 percent in US hands and the hands of the NATO allies," says Iber Nikqi.

Liman Fazliu agrees. "I would be very grateful if NATO threw the Serbian government out [of Kosovo] forever," he says. "That land is and will always be Albanian."

Almost as high a percentage of those polled - 97 percent - favor a land invasion of Kosovo.

"I believe NATO will have to go in with ground troops to install some rule," says survey respondent Fehmi Ramadani.

Januz Berisha also believes a ground invasion will be necessary. But while he supports the bombing campaign, he says NATO waited too long before stepping in.

"If NATO had attacked sooner, we would not have had to leave our houses," says Mr. Berisha, who says he was forced out of his village near Pristina on March 29.

Support for KLA

The refugees' approval of NATO is equaled by their support for another military institution: the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

And if there is no NATO ground campaign, Mr. Ramadani says, "We will find another way. We'll probably go with the KLA. If the US won't step in, we'll have no other choice. We cannot be under Serbian rule."

Two former university students, Fadil Germizas and Berzan Xhemaj, agree, saying that if NATO doesn't send in ground troops, they plan to go back to Kosovo and join the rebels.

Of the refugees polled, 9 out of 10 supported the KLA. Nalje Morina used to cook for KLA soldiers along with her family. "Even if we had nothing to eat, we'd still save something for the [KLA]. They are our army," her husband, Xheme, says.

When the Morina family was forced out of their home in Kline a year ago, they walked to the nearest town under KLA control, because, they say, it was the only place they felt safe.

More than a third of the refugees polled say they believe the KLA would be justified in attacking unarmed Serbian civilians in Kosovo who support the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

But while they support the KLA as a fighting force, no one interviewed wants the rebels in charge of the government. "They are for fighting. They don't know how to do politics," says Bakim Qela, a former student at Pristina University.

Anyone but Serbs

Some of the refugees, however, say they don't care who is in charge of Kosovo, so long as it's not the Serbs.

"I don't care if it's the US ... in charge," says Abaz Cubaj, whose graying ginger hair is hidden under a navy baseball cap. "I just want someone peaceful with the power to protect us from the Serbs."

For now, most of the refugees say they will continue to put their trust in the NATO campaign, and many express gratitude for US actions on their behalf.

"My oldest love is Kosovo," says Adem Mushmurati, an older man with hollow cheeks and sparkling brown eyes. "My second is America."

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