Mitrovica Serbs to join Belgrade opposition

BELGRADE, May 1, 2000 -- (AFP) Political representatives of the Serbs living in northern Kosovo, grouped in the Serbian National Council (SNV), want to join the ranks of the Serbian opposition movement, it was reported Sunday.

Marko Jaksic, a SNV leader in the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica, told a press conference that the SNV "will send an official document to the united Serbian opposition on Thursday," Serb reporters from Mitrovica told AFP.

"We hope that the opposition will accept us in its ranks," Jaksic said.

In January, the most important Serbian opposition parties agreed to join ranks in their bid to oust Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from power.

The SNV move came after another two Kosovo Serb leaders, Momcilo Trajkovic and Orthodox bishop Artemije, fierce critics of Milosevic, had earlier joined ranks with the Serbian opposition.

But the Mitrovica SNV has been at odds with Trajkovic and bishop Artemije, since they have joined the UN-backed Kosovo Transition Council (KTC) together with Kosovo ethnic Albanians.

"We think that Trajkovic and Artemije can not be the only representatives of Kosovo Serbs, we want to have our representative, since there are some 50,000 Serbs in northern Kosovo, mostly opposition-oriented," Jaksic said.

He added that the Mitrovica SNV wanted to avoid being described as a pro-Milosevic group "by those with ill intentions."

Oliver Ivanovic, the mayor of northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, populated mostly by the Serbs, again condemned the latest wave of incidents in the town, blaming NATO-led peacekeepers.

The clashes erupted in Mitrovica when Serbs blocked four trucks carrying about 100 ethnic Albanians as they tried to return to their homes in the north, said KFOR spokesman Lieutenant Matthieu Mabin.

The town has been divided since KFOR moved into the Yugoslav province last June, replacing Yugoslav forces responsible for widespread oppression of the Albanian majority.

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