Kosovo plans to gain control of northern region Mitrovica
Kosovo is crafting a plan to gain control of the country's northern region Mitrovica, a top official said.
Kosovo is crafting a plan to gain control of the country's northern region Mitrovica, a top official said on Tuesday.
"We want to have the rule of law there, to hold free elections in three municipalities, to establish the new municipality of Northern Mitrovica and to improve socio-economic conditions," Kosovo's Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci said.
With a 90 percent Albanian majority, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but its government does not control the north, inhabited mainly by Serbs who do not recognize Pristina institutions.
Ethnic tensions are especially high in Mitrovica, where a river divides the city into Serb and Albanian halves. Locals rarely cross to the other side, and past tensions have led shootings and bomb attacks.
Kuci was referring to a strategy prepared by his government and the International Civilian Office (ICO), which oversees Kosovo. "We will be careful in our actions because we don't want to implement this strategy with violence but will be careful also to use the legal tools to fight illegal actions."
Belgrade considers Kosovo part of its territory and does not recognize the independence of its former breakaway province.
"We see this as a deliberate provocation and we will try everything not to provoke the other side," said Oliver Ivanovic, State Secretary with the Serbia's Ministry for Kosovo who lives in Mitrovica. "No one should pay too much attention to this document which is just another still-born strategy."
Pristina has never controlled this area of northern Kosovo since 1999, when NATO bombing drove out Serb forces to stop the killing of Albanians in a two-year counter-insurgency war.
More than 50,000 live in northern Kosovo which is linked to Serbia by road and railway.
About 10,000 NATO troops and 2,000 police, judges and prosecutors from the European Union remain in Kosovo to oversee the Balkan country's fragile peace.
Reuters Last Mod: 27 Ocak 2010, 01:26