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Yugoslavia: Belgrade Accused Of Trying To Partition Kosovo

United Nations, 24 February 2000 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, accused Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of trying to partition Kosovo with a line through the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica. Holbrooke repeated his claim that Mitrovica is now "the most dangerous place in Europe." Holbrooke alleged that Milosevic and his associates were "infiltrating" people into Mitrovica--where a bridge across the Ibra River is a divide between the Serb-dominated northern part of the city and the ethnic Albanian southern area--to stir up tensions and undermine the efforts of NATO peacekeepers and the UN administration.

The Yugoslav government has denied U.S. and NATO assertions that it is fomenting ethnic strife in Mitrovica.

NATO is responding to a surge of violence in Mitrovica by sending more peacekeeping forces to the city.

French Defense Minister Alain Richard, speaking yesterday in Washington, said up to 700 fresh French troops would be sent to Mitrovica, which is located in the French-run sector of Kosovo. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said American reinforcements might also be sent, but no decision had been made yet. Cohen said NATO needed to send a "robust" signal to Serbs and ethnic Albanians that the unrest in Mitrovica must be halted.

In addition to the new troops, the Associated Press quotes a NATO official in Brussels as saying 2,000 troops which are already in Kosovo will be redeployed to Mitrovica.

NATO-led forces resumed weapons searches in the city yesterday as operations continued to prevent a repeat of the violence in which at least nine people have been killed this month.