BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- A 270-member police force will be sent to Kosovo province, where tensions between Serbs and ethnic Albanians threaten to erupt into civil war, authorities said Tuesday.
It is the second time in 10 months that Belgrade has moved to reinforce local police in Kosovo, an autonomous province in the Serbian Republic in southeastern Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanians comprise 90 percent of the population in the province, and the rest are Serbs and Montenegrins.
Last October, a detachment of 300 special federal police were sent to the Kosovo capital of Pristina to help secure the province, but have remained in a barracks outside the city.
Some Yugoslavian officials in the capital have said hostilities between the two ethnic groups is running so high they fear the outbreak of civil war in the province.
Petar Gracanin, the president of Serbia, the largest of Yugoslavia's six republics, said on Sept. 5 that Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo have been exposed to 'terror' by ethnic Albanian separatists.
Gracanin urged federal authorities to order the police detachment to patrol the streets of Pristina rather than remain in the barracks.
In an announcement Tuesday, the federal police said that it will dispatch a 270-man unit to Kosovo, which will arrive in the province Sept. 20.
The announcement said the force will be composed of police officers from all parts of Yugoslavia and that they will work in Kosovo alongside local policemen, who are mainly ethnic Albanians.
The number of federal policemen in the province will be increased or decreased as events warrant, authorities said.
On Monday, police accompanied 49 Serbian children on their way from the Kosovo village of Prekale to the school in Istok. The children had staged a 10-day boycott, refusing to go to school because they said ethnic Albanian children were harassing them.
Serbian Communist Party leader Slobodan Milosevic, showing his determination to bring the Kosovo issue to a head, on Sept. 7 refused a Yugoslav Communist Party order that he ban mass protest rallies in support of the Kosovo Serb and Montenegrin minorities.
Mass rallies with turnouts ranging from 10,000 to 65,000 people have been held the past two months in Serbia and the Montenegro Republic in eastern Yugoslavia. Speakers at the rallies have demanded Belgrade act more effectively to protect Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo from ethnic Albanian separatists.
The rallies also were in support of proposed constitutional changes granting more autonomy to the six republics.