NATO Warns Kosovo Serbs to Remove Roadblocks

Posted October 18th, 2011 at 2:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The commander of NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo says he is disappointed with the Serbs' failure to comply with the NATO deadline to remove a series of roadblocks.

In a statement Tuesday, General Erhard Drews said he will wait for the outcome of a Wednesday meeting of Kosovo Serb leaders to discuss whether to lift the blockade. He added that the peacekeepers are ready to take action if Wednesday's meeting does not produce positive results.

The roadblocks are part of a months-long standoff involving control of northern border crossings. Dozens of Serbs gathered Tuesday to protect the roadblocks from removal by NATO peacekeepers.

The peacekeeping force had given local ethnic Serbs until Tuesday to take down the 16 roadblocks, or they said the troops would do it themselves.

The barricades are stopping NATO convoys from getting through to supply the peacekeepers. NATO is demanding unconditional and permanent access to the border, saying its peacekeeping mission in Kosovo is preserving freedom of movement for people and communities.

Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo refuse to recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia or the authority of the ethnic-Albanian government. They are blocking the border crossing to stop the flow of goods and services.

An attempt by Kosovo police to take down the barricades in July erupted in violence, resulting in the death of an ethnic-Albanian police officer. Several other people were wounded.