Kosovo Serbs seek more time to remove border barricades

AFP , Monday 17 Oct 2011

A top Kosovo Serb official said Monday that international troops should wait before removing roadblocks put up by locals in sensitive border crossings with Serbia

"I hope that KFOR will wait until Wednesday when the representatives of the four (Serb) municipalities in the north will meet to discuss a decision to allow KFOR supply convoys to pass," Krstimir Pantic told AFP, referring to the NATO-led troops.

Pantic is the mayor of the majority Serb part of Kosovska Mitrovica, the biggest Serb town in northern Kosovo. Some 40,000 Serbs live in northern Kosovo where they make up the majority in a number of towns, including the northern part of Mitrovica. They refuse to recognise the authority of government in Pristina, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

A trade row spilled over into violence late July when Pristina ordered its security forces to take over two crossings on the border with Serbia to enforce a newly imposed ban on Serbian goods.
The ethnic Albanian Kosovo government said the ban was being ignored by ethnic Serb members of Kosovo's border police.

Serbs in northern Kosovo reacted angrily and an ethnic Albanian police officer was killed and four injured in ensuing clashes. NATO troops stepped in when the Jarinje border post was set on fire and bulldozed, apparently by ethnic Serbs.

Local Serbs have for weeks been manning 16 barricades blocking the main access roads to the border gates. On Monday, the situation in northern Kosovo was calm but there were no signs that Serbs were preparing to dismantle the blockades.

The commander of KFOR troops, General Erhard Drews, on Sunday postponed the removal of roadblocks until Tuesday to allow local Serbs an opportunity to do it voluntarily.

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