KFOR resumes cooperation with Serb group in South Kosovo

PRISTINA, Apr 10, 2000 -- (AFP) Kosovo peacekeepers said Sunday they had resumed cooperation with Serbs in southern Kosovo after a suspension of aid provoked by attacks on US and Polish troops.

U.S. army spokesman Captain Russell Berg said the cooperation with the community of Sevce had started again after a man wanted for illegal weapons possession handed himself over to NATO-led peacekeepers Saturday.

The arrest on Tuesday of the Serb, who had two handgrenades in his house, sparked six hours of clashes between local Serbs in the area of Strpce near the Macedonian border that left 12 peacekeepers slightly hurt.

Crowds of Serbs freed the suspect in the clashes and the US-led troops in the southeastern sector suspended cooperation until the man was surrendered.

Berg said the suspect and his family talked with a KFOR delegate who had conducted hours of negotiations between community leaders and the man agreed to turn himself in.

The man was detained in the US base of Camp Bondsteel near the southeastern town of Gjnilane pending a hearing with a magistrate.

Berg said most offenders in weapons violations cases were only held for 48 hours.

KFOR officials said they had deployed an "increased troop presence in order to ensure stability" in the area.

The suspended aid included reconstruction of damaged buildings, two KFOR-escorted convoys to Serbia and back every week and emergency medical aid.

KFOR's outgoing commander, German General Klaus Reinhardt, said in a statement that despite the violence in Sevce and another clash between KFOR and Serbs in the central village of Gracanica, cooperation will continue with local communities.

"Extremists will not succeed in breaching the good cooperation that has been built up between Kosovo's Serb citizens and KFOR over the past nine months," the statement said.

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