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Kosovar Albanians Protest New EU Deployment Plan

PRISTINA (Reuters) -- About 10,000 ethnic Albanians gathered in Kosovo's capital Pristina to protest against changes to the deployment of the European Union police and justice mission.

The protesters, most of them young, carried banners that read: "UN proposes war" and "Kosovo in EU, not under EU."

Last week, the United Nations put forward an amended six-point plan for the deployment of the EU's EULEX mission, which has faced delays due to opposition from Serbia and from Kosovo's Serbs, who see it as a symbol of Kosovo's independence.

UN officials had hoped the plan was acceptable both to Kosovo and Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February. Belgrade fiercely opposes the independence of its former province, which has a 90 percent Albanian majority. Backed by Moscow and Belgrade, some 100,000 Serbs still living in Kosovo oppose the secession.

"The aim of Belgrade is to partition Kosovo through [UN Secretary-General] Ban Ki-moon's plan," said Igballe Rogova, one of the protest organizers.

According to the UN plan, there would be two separate chains of command for Albanian and Serbian police officers in Kosovo. In Albanian-majority areas, police would be under the EU umbrella, while police in the northern part held mostly by Serbs would report to the UN administration.

Belgrade agreed to the plan so long as it is endorsed by the UN Security Council. But Kosovo's leadership rejected it, saying it amounted to a de facto partition of the country and violated the constitution.

On November 14, an explosion went off at the building housing the office of the EU's special representative in Kosovo. No one was injured.

EU members decided to send a mission to Kosovo in February, nine years after a NATO bombing campaign drove out Serbian forces accused of mass killings of civilians.

The UN mission arrived in Kosovo in 1999 and 16,000 NATO peacekeepers oversee the fragile peace.

EU officials say the EULEX mission cannot function in Serbian areas without Belgrade's consent.