Kosovo Serb Leader Warns Of Conflict

Kosovo’s ethnically-divided town of Mitrovica could face bloody conflict if inter-ethnic tensions continue unchecked, a local Serb politician says.

The town of Mitrovica has been a flashpoint since Kosovo’s Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in February. Some 20,000 Serbs who live in the north of the town reject the secession. In the last two weeks tensions have spilled over to violent protests, street fights and ambushes that have injured several people and caused extensive property damage.

Oliver Ivanovic, Serbia’s Mitrovica-based state secretary for Kosovo, said that more was needed from the NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR to keep the situation calm considering the amount of weapons circulating in the region.

“It is very important in this moment to preserve peace and stability and that the population doesn’t become victim of provocations,” Ivanovic told ethnic Serb Radio KIM. “There are many weapons in this town and KFOR presence would de-motivate these people from using them.”

The moderate Kosovo Serb leader, once a member of Kosovo’s Albanian-majority parliament, said the last series of incidents was actually a sign of more tensions to come in the spring..

Most of the120,000 Kosovo Serbs living in isolated enclaves among two million ethnic Albanians still look to Belgrade as their capital. KFOR troops and the European Union police (EULEX) are on alert throughout the area, deploying soldiers and armoured vehicles on frequent patrols.

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