12 July 2007

Radical activists call more pro-independence protests in Kosovo

DPA, Feb 20, 2007, 13:55 GMT

Pristina, Kosovo - The radically pro-independence Kosovo Albanian movement Vetevendosja, which in the past organized violent protests that ended in fatalities, on Tuesday announced more demonstrations for early March.

Two demonstrators were killed and dozens injured when police fired rubber bullets into a crowd of several thousand Vetevendosja (Self- determination) supporters.

The next protest was scheduled for March 3, coinciding with the start of the penultimate round of talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the future status of Kosovo.

The first of the three rounds planned by United Nations mediators was scheduled to open in Vienna on Wednesday.

Unlike mainstream Kosovo Albanian leaders, Vetevendosja rejects the negotiations and wants independence proclaimed immediately. Its leader Albin Kurti was arrested and ordered to serve a 30-day detention following the February 10 violence.

Vetevendosja has a record of violent protests which included stone and paint-throwing at UN and Kosovo government buildings.

The protests on March 3 would be 'peaceful,' aimed at those responsible for the death of the two demonstrators, Kurti's deputy, Glauk Konjufca, said.

In the wake of the demonstrations and the crackdown, the international police commissioner in Kosovo, Stephen Curtis, was forced to resign by UN Mission in Kosovo chief Joachim Ruecker.

Kosovo's Interior Minister Fatmir Rexhepi and several other officials also stepped down following the brutal crackdown. Kosovo has international and local police forces.

Konjufca rejected any Vetevendosja link to a bomb in central Pristina which injured nobody, but damaged several UN vehicles late Monday night.

'We had nothing to do with it ... We denounce violence that jeopardizes public safety,' he said.

An e-mail of dubious credentials claiming responsibility for the blast in the name of the disbanded Albanian guerrilla army UCK emerged Tuesday. It said that the blast was intended as revenge for the death of the two

The UCK was formally disbanded following the war in Kosovo in 1999 and the arrival of the UN administration and a NATO-led peacekeeping mission.

The UN have gradually been relinquishing authority to Kosovan authorities over the past few years.

Virtually all Albanians, who make up 90 per cent of the population in Kosovo, expect to gain independence during 2007.