French KFOR troops accused of cooperating with Serbs

LONDON, Mar 11, 2000 -- (AFP) Top international officials have accused French peacekeepers in Kosovo of cooperating with Serb paramilitaries controlling access to northern Mitrovica, The Scotsman newspaper reported Saturday.

"No arrests have been made against Serbs for incidents in which they were involved," the paper quotes an unnamed senior international official as saying.

According to The Scotsman, the unnamed officials also accused both KFOR and the UNMIK civilian police force in the province of deliberately failing to pursue war crimes suspects, in particular local leader Oliver Ivanovic, the self-styled mayor of northern Mitrovica.

"Why he's not being touched is because it's political," the senior official told The Scotsman on condition of anonymity, adding: "There's no doubt that there exists a direct link between Ivanovic and the French."

Earlier Friday, international officials said Briton John Adams, an UNMIK deputy regional commander, was removed from his post in the town for publicly criticizing French KFOR troops there.

Adams told journalists in Mitrovica on Wednesday that the soldiers had hindered a police investigation of a grenade attack by preventing them from getting quickly to the site and by tearing it up with an excavator.

UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel insisted Friday that cooperation between KFOR and UNMIK was "very close," adding: "The relationship between KFOR and UNMIK police is crucial to the success of Kosovo."

Ethnic hatred divides the mainly Serb population in the northern sector of Mitrovica from the Albanians in the south and the town has been the scene of violence between the communities and directed against peacekeepers.

Repeated clashes since early February have killed nine Albanians and two Serbs, while injuring scores, including French KFOR soldiers.

The Albanian mayor of southern Mitrovica, Bajram Roxhepi, has said Ivanovic was behind organized Serb paramilitary activity in the area.

Original article