Serbia calls for peace in crisis with Kosovo

AP , Sunday 31 Jul 2011

Serbian parliament passes resolution calling for a peaceful approach to the country's crisis with Kosovo after tense border clash

After a heated 10-hour debate, Serbia's parliament passed a resolution early Sunday calling for a peaceful resolution of the nation's worst crisis with Kosovo since the province declared independence three years go.

A majority of legislators from Serbia's governing pro-Western coalition agreed with Serbian President Boris Tadic, who told parliament he has ruled out the use of force in Kosovo following last week's ethnic violence, which left 1 person dead and forced NATO peacekeepers to intervene.

"When I say Serbia won't wage a war, I'm saying something every (Serb) politician should be saying each morning," Tadic said, reminding parliament of the bloody ethnic conflicts in Kosovo and other parts of the Balkans in the 1990s.

"We live in the region of the former Yugoslavia where wars have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives," he said. "I join the majority in the western Balkans that believes peace has no alternative."

Tadic spoke after nationalist Serb lawmakers lashed out at NATO, European Union officials in Kosovo and local ethnic Albanian authorities, blaming them for last week's violence. Some of them called for Serbia to intervene militarily to protect minority Serbs in Kosovo.

NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days in 1999 to force it to stop a brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians.

The latest crisis is the worst between the two countries since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and Serbia refused to accept that.

Last week, Kosovo government forces took control of two border crossing points with Serbia. Serbs in Kosovo responded by blocked roads and setting a border post on fire. After 1 Kosovo policeman died, NATO peacekeepers intervened and closed the checkpoints, virtually isolating the Kosovo Serbs from Serbia, where they get most of their supplies.

Kosovo Serbs on Sunday continued to blockade the roads leading to the two border posts, demanding that they be reopened and remanned by Kosovo Serb customs officials. The roadblocks are preventing NATO convoys from reaching its soldiers.

Borko Stefanovic, Serbia's chief negotiator with Kosovo Albanian officials, described the situation in northern Kosovo as "dramatic ... on the brink of conflict."

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