Int. Herald Tribune
Serbs and French square off at UN police post

Paris, Wednesday, July 19, 2000


MITROVICA, Yugoslavia - Serbs blocked roads Tuesday into Mitrovica, Kosovo's most ethnically tense city, and rallied in front of the United Nations police station to demand the release of a Serb whose arrest on arson charges touched off a night of violence in which French troops fired tear gas to disperse angry crowds.

The unrest occurred while George Robertson, the NATO secretary-general, and representatives of the NATO-member states were visiting Kosovo to monitor the alliance's peacekeeping operation here. Lord Robertson warned both Serbs and ethnic Albanians that they must do more to halt ethnic violence.

In Mitrovica, however, about 1,000 men, women and children protested on the northern, Serb-controlled side of the city late Tuesday, international officials said.

French troops had parked six armored vehicles on the bridge dividing the Serb from the Albanian sides of the city and prevented anyone - including international officials - from crossing. Police reinforcements were also sent to the city.

A Serb community leader, Oliver Ivanovic, accused the UN police of arresting Dalibor Vukovic without enough evidence. He and other leaders in this largest Serb community remaining in Kosovo said the arrest was another example of UN and NATO favoritism toward the ethnic Albanian majority.

"Over the last 10 months, during clashes around bridges, we had more than 100 people injured and not a single Albanian is jailed," Mr. Ivanovic said. "Fifty-three Serbs were killed or abducted and not a single Albanian is in jail."

French officials said four Serbs and two UN policemen were injured in Monday night's clash, which began after Mr. Vukovic was arrested and charged with setting fire to Albanian-owned cars.



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