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Kosovo Report: August 9, 1999

9 August 1999, Number 17, Volume 1

SITUATION REMAINS TENSE IN MITROVICA. Up to 1,000 ethnic Albanians clashed with French KFOR soldiers on 7 through 9 August at Mitrovica's central bridge leading into the Serb-dominated northern part of the city. The soldiers were hindering the protesters from entering that part of the city, fearing bloodshed between armed ethnic Serbs and Albanians. The protesters punched, spat, and threw cans at the soldiers. KFOR detained one ethnic Albanian. A KFOR spokesman said that "these mobs on the bridge were certainly orchestrated by the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) to crank up the pressure on us [to let them take over north Mitrovica]. But this would cause major violence." French troops also arrested four Serbs in the northern part of Mitrovica for possession of weapons. Meanwhile, unknown attackers fired a rifle-propelled grenade from the south into northern Mitrovica, but there were no injuries or serious damage.

Local Serbs currently control the northern part of the city and have occupied several of the Albanians' flats and houses. The few Albanians who live in that part of the city do not enjoy full freedom of movement. The Albanians of Mitrovica have expressed their resolve to reunite the divided city, but the international authorities in that city maintain that this aim can not be realized quickly. They warn that massive protest marches to the northern parts of the town can lead to bloodshed, because both sides are still armed. The Albanians of Mitrovica, meanwhile, have expressed concern that they have been left alone in their efforts to reunite the city, despite repeated statements by international officials that a partition of the city is unacceptable. Meanwhile, the Albanians have decided to go on the streets every day to protest against the partition of their city. In the southern part of Mitrovica there are currently about 20,000 ethnic Albanians who have their houses in the northern part of the city, but who cannot return.

INTERNATIONAL POLICE BEGIN WORK IN KOSOVO. The first 500 international policemen formally assumed their duties in Kosovo on 8 August, AP reported. The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) plans to deploy a total of 3,100 international police. So far, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Sweden, and the U.S. have all contributed to the force.

Meanwhile, 10 people, including eight Serbs, were injured in four separate grenade attacks on 8 August in various parts of Kosovo. In Prishtina on 6 August, KFOR raided the house of the UCK's interior minister, Rexhep Selimi. The peacekeepers found a submachine gun, a hand grenade, ammunition, and 20 radio frequency scanners, along with illegal identity cards, marked "Ministry of Public Order," allowing the holder of the card to make arrests. On 7 August, KFOR received a bomb threat from a person who spoke Serbian and warned that a bomb was planted at the Grand Hotel. This was the third bomb scare at that hotel. KFOR did not find any explosives in the building.

MAJKO IN ROME. After returning from a three day visit to Italy, Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said on 8 August in Tirana that Albania and Italy will work closely together to win as much support as possible from the development programs in the framework of the Balkan Stability Pact. Majko said that: "After the [July] Sarajevo summit the Albanian side has organized this bilateral order to prepare long-term projects in the framework of the Balkan Stability Pact." Majko said that the cooperation between Albania and Italy will increase in several areas: "We have discussed the possibility of sending many more Albanians to Italy to study there, and in exchange the possibility of Italian volunteers to come to Albania following the model of the peace corps. Other initiatives involve not only the area of education, but also the area of culture."