Kosovar Serbs split over participation in UN-led administration

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Apr 12, 2000 -- (AFP) Serbian leaders in this ethnically divided town said Tuesday they would not take part in Kosovo's UN-led administration despite a change of heart by fellow Serbs elsewhere in the province.

Members of the Serbian National Council (SNV) from the north of the province, based in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, refused to join fellow SNV members from the south of Kosovo in joining the administration.

They made their announcement following a meeting held in response to the first session in Pristina of Kosovo's Interim Administrative Council (IAC) to be attended by a Serbian SNV representative.

The Serb representative was nominated by SNV leaders based in Granica, southern Kosovo, who claim to represent the movement in Kosovo as a whole.

Despite their decision to cooperate with the fledgling council, set up to involve local communities in the administration of the province which has been governed by UN officials since June last year, Serbs in Mitrovica remain opposed to all co-operation.

"The SNV of the north of Kosovo insists that the SNV of Granica re-examines its decision and renounces its decision to joint the IAC," said the Mitrovica committee in a statement released after a meeting held in Leposavic just outside the town.

The statement said that the 50,000 Serbs living in the north of the province backed their local committee.

"The Granica SNV has no legitimacy to join the IAC, because 50,000 Serbs represent the majority of those who currently live in Kosovo," the statement said.

Mitrovica has been the scene of violent clashes between Serbs and Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian population. The town is now largely divided on ethnic lines along a border formed by the river Ibar.

Troops from the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force are stationed permanently in the town in an attempt to keep the rival communities apart.

Original article