AP Interview: Kosovo PM backs drive for north

AP News
Posted: Aug 01, 2011 2:26 PM
AP Interview: Kosovo PM backs drive for north

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said Monday he won't back away from his drive to extend authority over the Serb-run north, which rejects Kosovo's independence.

Thaci told The Associated Press in an interview he felt the country's "patience was abused" by international institutions that have allowed the northern region to slip away from Pristina's control.

"There is no turning back and there is no compromise with anyone over the country's security," Thaci said.

The former rebel leader, who fought Serbia during Kosovo's 1998-99 independence war, ordered special police units last week to set up customs points on two border crossings with Serbia citing a decision to enforce a ban on goods coming in from across the border.

"The change in the situation there is unstoppable," Thaci said following a visit at the special police units' base some 20 kilometers west of the capital Pristina.

The operation that left one policemen dead prompted resistance from local Serbs who set a border post on fire and shot at NATO peacekeepers deployed to thwart further violence.

It also drew criticism from the European Union, whose 3,000-strong mission there _ known as EULEX _ was taken by surprise by Pristina's move.

The EU has launched talks between Kosovo and Serbia, with a recent agreement to ease travel between the two territories being hailed as a breakthrough in the bitter relations.

The violent flare-up, however, has revived the simmering animosity, with Serbs setting up roadblocks to stop NATO troops or Pristina's security forces from sending reinforcements.

NATO said Monday some roadblocks had been cleared, but hundreds of Serbs still manned barricades on the main roads leading to the north.

EU mediator Robert Cooper is due in Pristina Tuesday in a bid to get talks back on track despite the recent controversy.

Pristina sees the crossings as essential to prove its authority over Kosovo's full territory, while Belgrade seeks to maintain its influence in the north and undermine Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence.

Kosovo's independence is currently recognized by 77 states, but Serbia has vowed never to accept the secession.