05 June 2007

Kosovo Serbs stage protest rally

BBC (UK), Friday, 9 February 2007, 15:24 GMT By Nick Hawton, Mitrovica


More than 3,000 Serbs have held a protest in Kosovo against UN plans for the future of the province.


It took place in the divided town of Mitrovica, which has witnessed violence in the past between its ethnic Albanian and Serb communities.


The UN proposals recommend a form of self-rule for the breakaway province, strongly opposed by Serbs.


The UN has agreed to delay talks on the plans until 21 February, at the request of Serbian President Boris Tadic.


'Indian reservations'


Many protesters in Mitrovica were waving the red, blue and white Serbian flags.


Others carried placards that said "We're not giving up Kosovo" and "Russia help us".


Speaker after speaker condemned the UN proposals, saying they would give the ethnic Albanian population what they wanted - independence for Kosovo.


One speaker said the UN was planning to turn Serbian enclaves in the province into Indian reservations.


The UN's chief envoy for the province, Martti Ahtisaari, has proposed allowing Kosovo to adopt a constitution, a flag, a national anthem and apply for membership of international organisations.


He has called on the Serb and ethnic Albanian parties to attend negotiations over his plan.


Those talks have now been delayed until 21 February because Serbia has still not formed a parliament after last month's general election.


Serbs strongly oppose Mr Ahtisaari's proposals, which they believe would lead to Kosovo's independence.


Ethnic Albanians want to see a rapid conclusion to the final status talks.