Serb bus stoned as top UN envoys visit Kosovo
KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Apr 29, 2000 -- (Reuters) Kosovo Albanians stoned a UN bus escorting Serbs to an Orthodox Easter service in Mitrovica on Friday while a UN Security Council delegation was visiting the divided city.
The UN envoys were apparently unaware of the attack and the delegation chief expressed satisfaction at their reception by both ethnic communities, despite palpable hostility in the streets of the Serb-run north side of town.
NATO peacekeeping troops threw a tight security blanket over the eight delegates as they took a short walk in north Mitrovica after briefings with KFOR peacekeeping officers and international civilian authorities on the south side.
The delegation met community leader Oliver Ivanovic of the Serbs and Bajram Rexhepi of the ethnic Albanians with UN officials present and won cheers and bouquets of flowers from ethnic Albanians. But they stayed clear of Serbs in the street.
Just before the delegation left in a KFOR helicopter, a UN bus carrying Serbs from north Mitrovica to an isolated church in the Albanian-dominated south was stoned by youths, KFOR soldiers and UN officials told reporters.
A KFOR French brigade spokesman said the Serbs, who were being escorted to Orthodox Good Friday services at the church, were bundled hastily into the building by peace troops.
When the service ended, the Serbs were returned to north Mitrovica in armored personnel carriers.
SERBS MASS IN PROTEST
Around 300 furious Serbs massed at the north end of one of the main bridges over the Ibar River that bisects the town to protest at the stoning, witnesses said.
Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, Bangladeshi head of the Security Council delegation, said ethnic Albanian and Serb leaders were "very supportive" of the efforts of UN administrators to restore peaceful co-existence in Mitrovica.
"We are very happy at the spirit we discerned among the community leaders and we gave them the message that violence must be rejected at all costs, that without this no progress in this area and Kosovo will come," he said in a brief statement before the envoys left town.
"We believe all the efforts UNMIK is making with KFOR support are moving toward implementing (UN Security Council Resolution) 1244," Chowdhury said.
UNMIK is the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.
Kosovo's minority Serbs have accused UNMIK of failing to protect them from post-war ethnic Albanian reprisals despite Resolution 1244 mandating international authorities to guarantee a safe, secure life for all in the province.
Ivanovic said four Serbs were hurt in the stoning and that Mitrovica could not be reunited, as the much more numerous ethnic Albanians demand, in the face of such antagonism.
The UN envoys were midway through a three-day tour of Kosovo to see how UNMIK might be improved. UNMIK chief Bernard Kouchner says the mission has been undefended and badly short of police needed to curb lawlessness.