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22 Feb, 2008 17:17

Tensions rise as Serbs push into Kosovo

Kosovo border police have reported Serb tanks are taking positions near the Kosovo-Serb border. On Friday police in Kosovo's northern city of Mitrovica held off thousands of Serb protesters who were trying to cross the bridge dividing the Serb and Albania

Hundreds of ethnic Serbs have arrived in the province to show their support for the Serbian minority living there. Kosovan authorities have already introduced restrictions preventing Serbs from entering the region.

Police have been given the green light to use tough measures to keep any rioting under control but, apart from isolated incidents, the rally passed off peacefully. 

Authorities feared a repeat of the overnight violence that gripped the Serbian capital Belgrade, killing one and injuring up to 200. The violence also resulted in damage to a number of Western embassies.

In Belgrade President Boris Tadic has called on the Council for National Security to discuss the situation in the country. He said there was no excuse for violence and nothing could justify Thursday's unrest.
Meanwhile, Russia's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, says alliance officials in Kosovo should not overstep the bounds of their mandate. 
“Some high-ranking NATO officials are giving orders that are obviously inconsistent with their authority, such as an order to block the border in northern Kosovo, where mostly ethnic Serbs live. This means that Kosovo Serbs are cut off from Serbia itself. If the Albanians decide to break away, that doesn't mean they can seize someone else's property and citizens.
The thing is that the Serbs in Kosovo, who were previously citizens of their country, suddenly do not know who they are – Kosovars or inhabitants of an independent territory. Besides, we're disturbed by reports, although it needs checking, that some NATO military chiefs are considering whether to stop representatives of the Serbian administration entering Kosovo. This is not in their mandate. For us, the main thing is that NATO shouldn't intervene in politics, but stick to a neutral position on Kosovo, as it always did,” Rogozin said.