NATO called in as Kosovo Serbs attack border posts

NATO peacekeepers in newly independent Kosovo intervened on Tuesday as Serb mobs opposed to its independence attacked border posts and police fled.

NATO called in as Kosovo Serbs attack border posts

Serbs burned down one border post and were attacking a second, a Kosovo police spokesman said. Police manning the post called for help from the NATO peacekeeping force, KFOR, which said it was stepping in.

"KFOR is going to intervene now," a force spokesman said. He declined to say which troops of the 35-nation, 17,000-strong force were being deployed.

"We are inches from partition," said a Western official.

He said he believed it was "only a matter of time before KFOR closes the bridges" that cross the River Ibar in the flashpoint city of Mitrovica, dividing Kosovo Serbs from Albanians.

Some 2 million Albanians live in Kosovo alongside around 120,000 remaining Serbs. Half of these are concentrated in an area running north from Mitrovica to the Serbian border, the rest in isolated enclaves further south.

A spokesman for the EU's International Civilian Office, whose Dutch leader Pieter Feith is expected in Kosovo any day, said there was no plan to withdraw a small advance EU team from the north side of Mitrovica. They would stay on and carry out their mandate, he said.


"Protesters have destroyed the border crossing post at Gate 1 in Jarinje," a Kosovo police spokesman said. "No one has been injured." Serbs were also attacking a second post near Zubin Potok, he said.

Police took shelter in a tunnel there as more than 1,000 protesters tried to tear it down, Kosovo police sources said.

"We asked NATO to send a helicopter to evacuate our officers," a police source said in Pristina.

KFOR forces in the district include French, Danish, Belgian and American units.

Local Serbs backed by the Serbian government and Russia say the planned EU supervisory mission to Kosovo, which will deploy 2,000 police and justice officials, is illegitimate and say that its authority will not be accepted.

EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana was expected in Kosovo later in the day to congratulate leaders on Sunday's independence declaration, recognized by most major Western powers but denounced by Serbia and Russia as illegal secession.

But angry Serb demonstrations and two nights of vandalism against vehicles and symbols of the international presence in Kosovo have thrown down a gauntlet to the incoming "EULEX" mission.

The EU expects to send the 2,000 police and justice officials to Kosovo to take over from the U.N. mission.

NATO had said on Monday conditions on the ground in Kosovo were quiet after its declaration of independence and there was no current need to reinforce its peacekeeping force.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Şubat 2008, 18:42