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Kosovo's No. 2 city coming slowly back to life

PRIZREN, Yugoslavia -- In the heart of this ancient trading city, Tajfun Paska flips burgers on the grill while his sister smears the buns with ketchup and layers on slices of tomato and cucumber.

"I'm so happy, after three months -- a hamburger," smiles Aida Fazliu sinking her teeth into the fresh bun.Twelve days after German troops participating in the Kosovo peacekeeping force rolled into town, many ethnic Albanian shopkeepers and restaurant owners in Prizren have repaired their shops and opened their doors for business again.

While some basics like milk are still hard to come by, grocers across the city are stocked with fresh bananas, peppers, peaches and potatoes. Downtown, a traditional center of trade for six centuries, locksmiths, tailors, music stores and shoe stores vie with dozens of cafes for German marks or Yugoslav dinars.

Unlike most cities in Kosovo, many ethnic Albanian-owned businesses in Prizren were only broken into and looted, not burned to the ground. Most shopkeepers, fearing the worst, hid their stock when they closed the doors, just before NATO bombing began.

"The Serbs stole 5,000 German marks ($3,000) worth of goods," said Afrim Kuki, who runs the Style clothing store, which specializes in jeans.

"Everything you see here, I hid up in the attic," he says, motioning to shelves stocked with Armani jeans that sell for $17 a pair. In the three days since he reopened, Kuki said he's had about 15 customers -- less than half his pre-war business, but not bad, he says, considering the situation.

In addition to shops, limited local bus service has started running again. Some garbage collection has also started, and 13 ethnic Albanian firefighters are staffing the local fire station.

All have been working 12-hour shifts without contracts or pay.

The firefighters are in close contact with representatives from the German contingent of KFOR and the United Nations, which is responsible for setting up an interim civic administration.

According to German Gen. Fritz von Korff, money from the European Union and the United Nations, as well as individual countries, has been earmarked for salaries of civil employees.