Serbs set up road blocks across Northern Kosovo

KOSOSVKA MITROVICA, Jun 8, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbs living in northern Kosovo closed dozens of roads across the region on Wednesday to protest against a recent wave of attacks on their ethnic kin.

Parked cars and lorries blocked routes leading out of the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica towards the rest of Serbia to the north and the provincial capital of Kosovo in the south.

Elsewhere roads linking Mitrovica to the Yugoslav province of Montenegro were also barred, while up to 1,000 Serbs blocked a highway through the northern Kosovo town of Zvecan.

The Serbs kept the blockades in place for two hours during the evening before clearing the roads. UN administrators and KFOR peacekeepers did not intervene.

"It is a democratic right of people to protest. Serbs have the right to protest peacefully," UN spokesman Michael Kits told Reuters.

The protest was called following a grenade attack on the Serb monastery town of Gracanica, near Pristina, on Tuesday, which injured five people. Last week eight Serbs were killed in various attacks around Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanian extremists have been blamed for the murders and a delegation of moderate Kosovo Serb leaders was due to leave the province sometime on Wednesday to meet top UN officials in New York.

The delegation will demand an amendment to UN Resolution 1244, which authorizes the international control of the Serbian province. The Serbs want a clause specifically safeguarding the rights of their community within Kosovo.

The United Nations says more than 150,000 Serbs have fled the province over the past 12 months following attacks by Albanians. Most of the Serbs who have remain live in Kosovo's northern areas.

KFOR and the United Nations wrested control of Kosovo from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia almost one year ago after a 78-day-long bombing campaign by NATO, which was sparked by Serbia's repression of ethnic Albanians.

Earlier on Wednesday Yugoslav authorities in Belgrade demanded that KFOR and the United Nations pull out of Kosovo, saying they had failed to protect Serbs and other non-Albanians.

The UN chief administrator to Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, is due to meet UN leaders in New York later this week to discuss ways in which the safety of the Serbs can been enhanced.

UN officials in Pristina have warned that if attacks on Serbs continue, foreign donors will stop funding reconstruction projects in Kosovo.

"We are anticipating that (the attacks) will contribute to the donor fatigue that has already set in," the UN Kosovo mission spokeswoman Susan Manuel told reporters on Wednesday.

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