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Rising Kosovo Border Tensions Elicit UN, OSCE Appeals


Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at a joint press conference in Pristina on September 15.
UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have renewed calls for calm amid growing tensions in northern Kosovo.

Ethnic Serbs in the north of Kosovo oppose plans by Kosovo's mainly ethnic Albanian leaders to deploy police and customs agents there at two border crossings with Serbia.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, whose country currently holds the rotating OSCE chairmanship, appealed for calm and restraint. Azubalis said the OSCE mission in Kosovo is "committed" to helping stabilize the situation.

The UN Security Council met in emergency session late on September 15 to discuss the dispute, although it failed to agree on a Russian statement urging both Kosovo's ethnic Albanians and Serbs to avoid violence and resolve differences through dialogue.

A similar attempt to impose border authority in July sparked violence in the area and one Kosovo Albanian policeman was killed.

Before the UN meeting, Serbs blocked the main bridge connecting the southern (Albanian) and northern (Serb) parts of Kosovo ahead of the border deployment, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reported.

Before the September 15 emergency UN session, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over the growing threat of violence in the area.

"I call on all concerned to refrain from unilateral actions which could escalate tensions in the area. I urge Pristina and Belgrade authorities to continue the European Union-facilitated dialogue and build on its success so far, and to take practical steps toward the implementation of the agreements reached so far," the UN chief said.

"I also urge them to make every effort to avoid an escalation of tensions and prevent confrontation and violence in northern Kosovo."

The UN Security Council emergency session came after NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen paid a one-day visit to Kosovo.

While in Pristina, Rasmussen assured Kosovo's leadership NATO would maintain security if there were violence during the deployment.

Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said in an RFE/RL interview on September 14 that law and order would be imposed in the north and "criminal structures" rooted out.

Thaci later said the deployment would go ahead on September 16 with the help of the European Union police force in Kosovo, EULEX, and NATO peacekeepers.

Serbian President Boris Tadic has warned the move could spark renewed violence.

with additional RFE/RL and wire reporting