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Serbian Red Cross Denies Census Allegations In Kosovo

Long-simmering tensions between Kosovars and ethnic Serbs have been rising in recent months.

Serbia's Red Cross says it is gathering information from people in Kosovo to help address the needs of the community and not conducting what police allege was an illegal census of ethnic Serbs in the country.

"The Red Cross has an obligation to create a social map because it is the responsibility of the Red Cross to provide realistic and objective humanitarian assistance," Vesna Milenovic, secretary-general of the Red Cross of Serbia, told Serbian Radio-Television in a September 15 interview.

Kosovar police said a day earlier that they had raided premises used by the organization in the country, confiscating documents suspected of being used for the purported illegal census.

They also said that some police officers were injured after being attacked during a raid conducted in the northern city of Mitrovica.

The Red Cross of Serbia, a branch of the international Red Cross, also works in Kosovo to support the Serbian minority there.

Some Red Cross employees were questioned during the raids, but no arrests were made. Kosovo police, however, said they had launched criminal cases against suspects who allegedly attacked some officers.

Long-simmering tensions between Kosovars and ethnic Serbs have been rising in recent months.

Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, suspended European Union-sponsored talks with Serbia after Ramush Haradinaj, the recently appointed prime minister, was arrested in France on a warrant from Belgrade in January. A French court refused to extradite him.

Serbia, which said the police raids were part of "the continuation of pressure against Serbs" in Kosovo, does not recognize Kosovo's independence. Most of Kosovo's ethnic Serbs live in the north, the area where the raids took place.

The EU has urged Pristina and Belgrade -- both seeking to join the 28-member bloc -- to normalize relations and is sponsoring talks in hopes of ending years of hostility.

Greg Delawie, the U.S. ambassador to Kosovo, said on Twitter that he was "concerned" about the Red Cross issue and following it "closely."