Peacekeepers fire shots, tear gas in Mitrovica

>KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Yugoslavia, July 18 (Reuters) - Peacekeepers fired tear gas and shots in the air on Monday night to disperse a crowd of Serbs in the flashpoint Kosovo city of Mitrovica, a spokesman for French forces said. Around 100 people gathered after United Nations police arrested a Serb man in the Serb-dominated north of the ethnically divided city, said Lieutenant Colonel Philippe Eriau of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force.

The crowd had gathered outside the UN police station and thrown stones at peacekeepers, he said.

"The situation was quite tense at one moment," he said. "There was a need for KFOR to use tear gas to clear the area."

Eriau said he could not confirm reports that a UN policeman was kidnapped by members of the crowd. A Serb said he had seen a policeman, possibly Indian, bundled into a car.

Several Serbs in northern Mitrovica said they had seen UN police fire into the air. Eriau said he believed it had been French troops who patrol the city who fired the shots.

He said the situation had calmed after the peacekeepers dispersed the crowd. Four people were slightly injured, apparently by the tear gas canisters, Eriau said.

The commander of Kosovo's French-led northern military sector had been on the scene and held talks aimed at resolving the situation with Oliver Ivanovic, leader of the Serb community in northern Mitrovica, Eriau said.

Mitrovica, a northern industrial city, is postwar Kosovo's most dangerous flashpoint. It has been the scene of several serious clashes involving Serbs, peacekeepers and members of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.

Eriau said the Serb man was arrested on suspicion of having set fire to the car of an ethnic Albanian man last month.

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