Czech Republic, Greece concerned over Kosovo tension

ATHENS, Feb 23, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Greek and Czech foreign ministers expressed concern on Tuesday at tensions in Kosovo and said the province should remain home to Serbs and Albanians.

"We are concerned about the situation in Mitrovica. We are part of the peacekeeping force there," Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said after talks with his Czech counterpart Jan Kavan.

"Kosovo should remain a multi-ethnic community with equal rights for all," he continued.

Kavan said the Czech government had communicated its concerns through its ambassador to NATO.

On Monday, battles broke out between Western peacekeepers and ethnic Albanians who tried to storm across a bridge in the Kosovo town of Mitrovica to reach the province's largest remaining Serb enclave.

On Sunday KFOR peacekeeping troops clashed with the town's Serbs who were angered by home searches by the soldiers for weapons after shootings and grenade attacks.

Both ministers avoided comment on Western allegations that Yugoslavia was stoking tension in and around Kosovo.

Papandreou and Kavan are to open a Greek-Czech cooperation office for the reconstruction of the Balkans in Thessaloniki. They said both countries could undertake infrastructure, energy and other projects in the region.

Papandreou said Greece fully supported the Czech Republic's goal of joining the European Union in 2003.

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