NATO Forces Clear Kosovo Barricades

Posted August 1st, 2011 at 12:20 pm (UTC-5)
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NATO forces have removed some of the barricades put up by Serbs in northern Kosovo after a trade dispute escalated into deadly violence last week, but other roadblocks still remain.

The alliance removed several roadblocks Monday that impeded access to NATO bases in northern Kosovo. It is unclear how many roadblocks are still in place.

Also Monday, the head of Belgrade's negotiating team, Borislav Stefanovic, and Serbian Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanovic met with Serb representatives in the northern Kosovo town of Zvecane. The move is widely seen as a further act of defiance to Kosovo's claim to statehood.

Last week, special forces of Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian government seized two border crossings in Serb-dominated northern regions to enforce a ban on imports from Serbia. Kosovo's government imposed the ban last month in retaliation for Serbia's blocking of Kosovo imports.

Northern Kosovo Serbs confronted ethnic-Albanian security forces last Monday , triggering an exchange of gunfire that killed one ethnic Albanian policeman and wounded several other people. NATO peacekeepers intervened, taking control of the two border posts on Thursday under an agreement with the Kosovo government, which pulled out its special police. After the police withdrew, a mob of Serb attackers set fire to one border post and fired on NATO peacekeepers sent to quell the violence.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said Sunday he believes the Kosovo government's brief seizure of the crossings is part of a scheme to change northern Kosovo's demographic balance. Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci accuses Belgrade of masterminding the violence.

The violence in northern Kosovo was one of the most serious incidents in the region since Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008,