Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Kosovo: NATO sends reinforcements amid raising tensions

Pristina, 2 Aug. (AKI) - NATO's currently 5,000-soldier strong presence in Kosovo will be strengthened in the next few days by a fresh 700-men battalion deployed to help keep a border spat from reaching crisis levels, the military alliance said on Tuesday. The contingent will consist of 550 German and 150 Austrian soldiers, according to German sources.

A conflict broke out last week when Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci sent special police units to take over two border crossings with Serbia to enforce embargo on imports of Serbian goods.

Local Serbs, who make majority population in the north and oppose Kosovo independence declared by the majority Albanians, responded by setting up road blocks and demanded withdrawal of Kosovo police. One Kosovo policeman was killed and several people were wounded in clashes.

Nato's Kosovo Security Force, or KFOR, said in the statement that “Serb sharpshooters and other armed people” have been spotted in the north, adding that they will be “decisively confronted.”

Serbian government negotiator for the crisis, Borko Stefanovic, who has spent several days in northern Kosovo, said he had seen no armed people among local Serbs. “We have seen no armed people, but extremist structures, of course, exist on the part of Pristina as well,” he said.

European Union mediator in the talks, Robert Cooper, talked with Stefanovic on Monday and with Thaci in Pristina on Tuesday, but made no statements. Stefanovic said only that the talks were “very difficult” and would continue...."

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