03 November 2006

Explosion targets aide to Kosovo deputy PM

Reuters, October 5, 2006

An explosion damaged the home of an adviser to Kosovo's deputy prime minister late on Wednesday, the second attack on his aides in under a month.

Both incidents happened in the ethnically-mixed area of Gnjilane, in the east of Serbia's United Nations-run province. There were no reported injuries.

Ethnic Albanians in the area have been the first to show real resistance to Western-backed plans to redraw municipal boundaries and give more local power to the Serb minority.

The plan is headed by deputy Prime Minister Lutfi Haziri. The Gnjilane Albanians say the move will create "corridors" between communities, a prelude to Kosovo's ethnic partition.

But with Kosovo's 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority pushing for independence within months, the province's Western backers say the policy is essential to improve the rights and security of Serbs.

"At 2240 (2040 GMT) an explosion took place in the yard of the house of the adviser to the deputy prime minister," U.N. police said in a statement. "No injuries were reported, but there was damage to the property."

The car of another Haziri adviser was destroyed in a bomb blast on September 17.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces accused of civilian killings and ethnic cleansing in a two-year war with guerrillas.

Serb-Albanian talks began in February. The West has set a year-end deadline for a settlement, but appears to be mulling a delay into early next year to allow for snap Serbian elections expected in December.

U.N. officials in the territory have warned against delay, fearing fresh ethnic violence by Albanians impatient to end seven years of economic and political limbo.