Ban deplores Kosovo violence

2008-03-17 21:48

New York - UN chief Ban Ki-moon deplored Monday's violent attacks against UN and Nato-led peacekeepers in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica.

"The secretary-general deplores the violent attacks against UNMIK (UN mission) police and KFOR (Nato-led) personnel that occurred earlier today in Mitrovica, Kosovo," his press office said in a statement.

Ban urged "all communities to exercise calm and restraint, and underlines the need for constructive dialogue in order to address the situation".

He expects "all sides to refrain from any actions or statements that could incite or provoke further violence," the statement added.

More than 100 people including 33 members of the international security forces in Kosovo were hurt during the Mitrovica clashes, according to local police.

The UN police were forced to withdraw from the Serb-populated half of the divided town of Mitrovica after 25 of them and eight NATO peacekeepers were wounded in grenade and gun attacks.

The Serb protestors - many of whom worked in the judiciary before Kosovo came under UN administration in 1999 - had occupied the courthouse since Friday to demand the establishment of their own tribunal.

Ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo proclaimed independence from Serbia on February 17 and it has since been recognised by more than 25 countries, including major Western powers such as the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

Serbia, which considers the territory as its historical heartland, has rejected the move as illegal.

Some 17 000 KFOR peacekeepers have been deployed throughout Kosovo, run by UN since the end of 1998-1999 conflict between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbia's armed forces.

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