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Serbian President Says Belgrade Will Not Use Force

Serbian President Boris Tadic in Prague
Serbian President Boris Tadic in Prague
PRAGUE -- Serbian President Boris Tadic says that Belgrade will not use force to resolve the conflict between Kosovar police and ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

"Serbia will not wage war, but we warn that the use of all other violence involves tremendous risks," he said in Prague on July 26. "In Serbia there are political parties and individuals who believe that there is now a need to enter the conflict, to start new wars and new violence."

But Tadic, who was in Prague to receive the Polak Award for his contributions to democratic and economic reforms in Eastern Europe, said he is "deeply convinced" that most Serbian citizens do not support such calls for military intervention in Kosovo. "We must not again fall into the trap in which our country was ransacked during the 1990s."

One Kosovar policeman was killed on July 26 when Kosovar forces tried to seize border posts on the frontier with Serbia that were being manned by ethnic Serbs who do not recognize Kosovo's independence.

The European Union and the United States have called for calm in Kosovo since the incident and NATO announced its peacekeepers in Kosovo have increased their patrols in the area.

Kosovar Police Action 'Unacceptable' For Serbia

Tadic said the action by the Kosovar police could hamper dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

He said he spoke with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and conveyed the message that the action by the Kosovar police is "unacceptable" for Serbia.

Tadic said Ashton ensured him that Brussels "will act in accordance with previous standards, with a neutral status," and said he expects the U.S. government will act in the same manner.

"I believe that in key U.S. institutions there is no doubt about [acting neutral]," he said. "However, it's quite possible that some people within the [U.S. government] encourage Pristina to undertake these moves."

"I urge everyone to keep calm and for no one to react to any provocation," Tadic said. "I appeal to [Serbian] citizens and Serbian and Albanian nationalities to maintain peace, for Pristina not to take these actions, and for representatives of the international community not to encourage Pristina by any means."

Tadic said the motive for the action by Kosovar forces was "to dominate the whole area of northern Kosovo."

He stressed that despite the events in northern Kosovo, Serbia is still ready for dialogue with officials in Pristina.

Kosovo -- which is predominantly populated by ethnic Albanians -- declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade does not recognize its statehood. Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by 77 countries.