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Work Begins On Bridge Spanning Ethnic Divide In Kosovo City

Construction work begins on the Ibar bridge that connects the Albanian and Serbian parts of Mitrovica on August 14.

Work to reopen a bridge that that physically and symbolically divides ethnic Serbs and Albanians in a Kosovo city has reportedly begun.

The dpa news agency said construction equipment was in action on August 14 at the Mitrovica Bridge, which spans the Ibar River in the northern city of Mitrovica.

The bridge has been closed to cars for more than five years.

Police intervened in unrest that broke out in June 2014, after ethnic Serbs removed a barricade that had blocked the bridge but Serbian authorities soon afterward placed concrete planters on the span, effectively blocking it again.

A European Union statement on August 5 said that the "revitalization of the bridge and its surroundings" would start on August 14 and that the bridge would be opened for all traffic on January 20, 2017.

The Mitrovica Bridge "will become the symbol of normalization of relations between the Kosovo Serb, Kosovo Albanian, and other communities," it said.

Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo following a NATO bombing campaign that helped end a 1998-99 war, and Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

Based on reporting by dpa and B92