Kosovo president calls Serbs to calm

Other News Materials 20 February 2008 14:35 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu on Wednesday appealed to minority Serbs to end violent protests against Kosovo's split from Serbia, calling on them to start a "new life" in their new country.

"We call upon Serb citizens in Kosovo to join our new life and calm down in the north," Sejdiu said after meeting the new European Union representative in Kosovo, Pieter Feith.

Serbs in their enclave in northern Kosovo on Tuesday attacked, torched and mined two police and customs checkpoints on the border with Serbia.

Tensions have been on a steep rise since Kosovo, dominated by a 90-per-cent ALbanian majority, declared independence on Sunday.

Kosovo and international police pulled back in the face of an angry crowd, leaving it to NATO-led peacekeepers of Kfor to restore order. No injuries were reported owing to the restraint showed by the security forces.

Sejdiu said Kfor "has the mandate" to impose order in all of Kosovo, which declared independence on Sunday, enraging Belgrade and Serbs, who rioted on both sides of the border.

Several countries, including the United States, have already recognized Kosovo. The European Union has not found a common stance on the new state, but most member states are expected to establish ties with it in the coming days.

The EU has also sent a law-enforcing mission, headed by the Dutch diplomat Feith, of nearly 2,000 police, customs and justice experts to help Kosovo start a sovereign life.

The mission was denounced as illegal by Belgrade, which has withdrawn ambassadors from countries that recognized Kosovo and warned that neither Serbia, nor Kosovo Serbs would cooperate with EU officials.

Feith however assured that the mission would work throughout Kosovo, including the hostile, Serb-dominated northern section with the divided hotspot town Mitrovica as its hub.

"We're not pulling out of the north," he said after meeting Sejdiu in Pristina, and promised that EU officials would be deployed there in the coming weeks.