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Ethnic tensions flare in northern Kosovo — raising fears of another conflict

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

In Kosovo, violent clashes are raising fears of a renewed ethnic conflict in the region. The violence started after elected ethnic Albanian mayors took office in the country's northern Serb-majority area following a vote last month. Local Serbs, an ethnic minority in Kosovo, rejected the mayors and protested. And Kosovo's police moved in, seized municipal buildings and clashes ensued. Dozens of people have been injured in those clashes, with police and NATO troops on one side and Serb protesters on the other. NATO is sending more troops to try to quell the violence. Joining us now is Igor Bozic, news director for TV N1 in Belgrade. Good morning.

IGOR BOZIC: Good morning to you, Leila.

FADEL: So what's the current situation in northern Kosovo?

BOZIC: Well, the tensions are raised. But it seems to be that this morning is quite calm. So the Serbian minority, actually - the Serbian majority in the north of Kosovo, but minority in Kosovo - is now trying to protest and to demonstrate against the mayors, who are ethnic Albanians, because they were elected on the election when they boycotted. The Serb boycotted the elections. So they are protesting against that. They are coming into the offices, which they consider - it's their ownership because they are majority on their territory.

And then they don't want to see the mayors from the Albanian ethnicity to be a kind of - governing their municipalities. And they just want to reject them. And now when they appear with the Albanian flags on those municipalities in these buildings, they are protesting against that. And now we are seeing conflicts between Kosovo police and KFOR units. We saw that on Monday - very heavy clashes, dozens of injuries on both side, on the KFOR soldiers. And it is still very not secure area.

FADEL: Now, this tension, how much of a concern is that it will get wider? Serbia's president has put the army on high alert. What's Belgrade's stance on the violence?

BOZIC: Well, that's - we are seeing that this is not the first time that he is doing that, like when he saw tensions on the north, he wants to calm down and to send more military troops on the border. But we - right at this moment, we cannot see that any kind of conflict on the army level can escalate right at this moment. Belgrade is now looking into the KFOR, so the NATO soldiers, to prevent the peace. And looking at the statements from the KFOR and from the U.S. officials on Kosovo and from the NATO, we are seeing that there is a kind of agreement that KFOR will solve this situation on the note.

FADEL: That's Igor Bozic, news director for TV N1 in Belgrade. Thank you.

BOZIC: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOR'S "VAULTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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