NATO gives Serbs until Monday to clear barricades

KFOR delivered an ultimatum to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo manning barricades at a border crossing in the breakaway region's north: remove the obstacles by Monday, or else the international peacekeepers will step in and clear the road themselves.

KFOR Commander Erhard Drews insisted that the barricades are preventing the freedom of movement in Kosovo for residents, as well as for KFOR and EULEX soldiers.

However, the Serbs complain that they have been given too little time to comply. The roadblocks have now been in place for nearly a month, set up in protest against NATO and EU forces taking over a checkpoint and allowing Kosovar customs officers to be stationed there.

Late last month some of the barricades were bulldozed, resulting in violence. Peacekeepers used rubber bullets and teargas against the Serbs.

NATO's actions would be legitimate if not for the fact that they also serve the interests of Kosovar officials, said Nikola Tanasic, a political analyst at the New Serbian Political Thought magazine.

“The Serbian authorities and authorities in Kosovo recognize NATO’s right to enforce the law in Kosovo, but the problem is that NATO recognizes the Kosovar officials that are currently trying to implement their laws and their checkpoints at the border between northern Kosovo and central Serbia,” he said. “That is unacceptable for the Serbs. Were it only for NATO convoys, there would be no problem whatsoever. The problem is that they themselves carry in Albanian officials from the Kosovar government.”

Meanwhile, the state secretary of the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo, Oliver Ivanović, called KFOR’s ultimatum unexpected and potentially dangerous, saying it will raise tensions.

“It won't bring any result, aside from the fact that it could raise tensions in case KFOR tried to achieve what it announced,” he was quoted as saying by the Serbian broadcaster B92.