Fiery headlines, officials support riots of Kosovo Serbs

Other News Materials 20 February 2008 14:10 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Front pages in Serbian yellow press on Wednesday, a day after Kosovo Serbs smashed United Nations barracks on Kosovo's border with Serbia, were as fiery and inciting as they were on the onset of each war fought in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

"Rebellion!," "Stop terror," "Defence of Kosovo," "On the verge" and "Kosovo burning" are some of the headers of low-price boulevard dailies such as Gazeta, Pravda and Kurir.

Accompanying the front-page captions were photos - flag-waving, masked people and burning buildings - from the incident on the border which the Serbs - folk and officials - refuse to recognize. "Serbs wiped out the border," said the title of a report in the Pravda.

Serbs from the Kosovo villages in the border zone had torched and mined customs and police barracks, as well as a bank and other buildings, with the declared goal of "keeping Kosovo Serbian."

Kosovo police pulled back and left it to NATO peacekeepers of Kfor to restore control. No injuries were reported as the tense stand-off did no escalate owing to restraint shown by police and Kfor.

Tensions in Serbia and in Kosovo, particularly in the northern part, the only section where the minority Serbs dominate, had continued to grow since Pristina declared independence on Sunday.

The move was meanwhile recognized by the United States and several other countries, with most of European Union states due to follow suit in the coming days. The EU has also launched a mission of 2,000 law-enforcing officials to help Kosovo's first sovereign steps.

Apologetic newspaper reports mostly quote northern Kosovo Serb leaders who justified the border attacks with their refusal to acknowledge the "illegally proclaimed" and "false state" of Kosovo.

The attack and the offered explanation are in line with Belgrade's official policy, unveiled on the eve of Kosovo's declaration of independence. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica then said called on Kosovo Serbs not to obey laws of the "false state."

"It may not be pretty, but it's legitimate," the Kosovo Minister Slobodan Samardzic said in an interview with B92 Tuesday night, referring to the torching of buildings in northern Kosovo.

Though Samardzic stressed that the riots were "spontaneous," he described the action as "good."

The apparent aim of Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs is to enforce the de facto partition of Kosovo along ethnic lines and possibly fuse the northern section with Serbia proper.

Serbia maintains strong parallel governing structures in the area, keeping the out the UN authorities and much more the central government in Pristina.

The diamond-shaped chunk, roughly 22 per cent of Kosovo's territory with the divided town of Mitrovica as the southernmost point, 40 kilometres north of Pristina, is the only solid Serb enclave, with 50,000 estimated to be settled there permanently.

Though backing the idea of the division, some analysts however warned that violence was counter-productive to the goal.

"We shot ourselves in the foot," a columnist of the daily Blic said. "It was what Albanians had hoped for ... an incident to compel the international community to take control of northern Kosovo."