Friday, March 21, 2008

Serb Minister: UN Wants Wider Conflict

20 March 2008 Belgrade _ Serbia has evidence that UN intervention against Serbs in north Mitrovica this week, was aimed at sparking a wider conflict, a top-ranking Serbian official has alleged.

“We have evidence so an investigation that must follow, we have TV footage, bullets extracted from wounded people, casings from sniper rifles that were targeting Serbs,” Slobodan Samardzic, Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo, said in an interview with the Vecernje Novosti daily published on Thursday.

Samardzic, a key ally of conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica sought to defend Serbs from Mitrovica saying they were provoked by “the brutality of United Nations police troops.”

“We have evidence that someone wanted to provoke conflict and introduce martial law in Kosovo,” he said.

One Ukrainian policeman serving with the UN in Kosovo died in riots Monday which erupted after international troops raided a local court in northern part of Mitrovica taken over by local Serbs last week.

Two civilians remained hospitalised and in serious condition, while at least 150 people, civilians, UN police and NATO peacekeepers were injured.

UN authorities in Kosovo launched an investigation into the incident. They also accused Serbia of having a covert presence of its police in Mitrovica court, something denied by the government in Belgrade.

Serbia has also demanded a separate probe by the UN Security Council over alleged excessive use of force by international troops.

Samardzic’s remarks came amid election campaign for the May 11 general elections which will pit conservatives loyal to Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and nationalists of the Serbian Radical Party against a pro-Western bloc led by the Democratic Party of the country’s President Boris Tadic.

Samardzic dismissed Tadic's repeated claims that Serbia can only defend Kosovo as its constituent part only if it joins the European Union as “a post-modern fairy tale and a lullaby for the people.”

“It is fiction. Even without Kosovo (as an ongoing crisis) … we could not become a (European Union) member within a decade,” he said.

Earlier this week, Tadic’s loyalists lashed out at Samardzic accusing him of having a role in instigating violence in Kosovo’s north. 2008

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