NATO tries to remove Kosovo Serb roadblocks

AP News
Posted: Oct 22, 2011 4:32 AM
NATO tries to remove Kosovo Serb roadblocks

NATO-led peacekeepers tried to remove roadblocks in northern Kosovo on Saturday, but were prevented by Serbs guarding the blockade that has paralyzed travel in the tense region.

The troops in full riot gear tried overnight to push through three of the 16 roadblocks formed from vehicles, rocks, mud and logs. But they were met by hundreds of Serbs who sat on the roads to stop the advance.

No force was used and no injuries were reported during the tense six-hour standoff.

Kosovo Serbs have been blocking roads to stop the country's ethnic Albanian leadership from extending its control over the part of the country populated mostly by ethnic Serbs.

Serbs reject Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence and consider the region a part of neighboring Serbia. They say the peacekeepers are biased against them.

The NATO-led troops say they want to establish freedom of movement for all citizens and ensure supply of their troops stationed in Kosovo.

In July, ethnic Albanian authorities deployed their security forces to two border posts in northern Kosovo to enforce a trade ban with Serbia. Serbs reacted by blocking roads and triggering clashes with Kosovo police that left one police officer dead.

Kosovo Serb leaders say they are willing to negotiate free passage for the 5,500-strong peacekeeping force _ known as KFOR _ but only if it doesn't transport Kosovo officials.

"As long as KFOR tries to deploy Kosovo authorities in the north of Kosovo by force, freedom of movement is impossible," said Kosovo Serb official Slavisa Ristic.

On Friday, the commander of NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo Maj. Gen. Erhard Drews again told Serbs to remove their roadblocks, warning that otherwise force would have to be used.


Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade.