K. Serb leader: Partition talk is nonsense

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- A Kosovo Serb leader has described the rumors of the province's imminent partition as "ordinary nonsense".

Chairman of the Serb Municipalities of Kosovo Alliance Marko Jakšić told daily Večerenje Novosti today that "some would, it seems, prefer to have all the Serbs in the entire territory of Kosovo and Metohija keep quiet, for their voices not to be heard, which would, in a way, constitute for proof that the Serbs agree to the creation of another Albanian state in the Balkans."

"The important point is that we don't insist that those Serbs who live south of the Ibar [River] must demonstrate in any way. We bear in mind that Albanians are looking for any excuse to subject them to violence," Jakšić said.

The Ibar, that flows through the divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica, is often referred to as the natural future division line between the northern, Serb-inhabited regions of Kosovo, and the south of the province, majority ethnic Albanian.

But there are also isolated Serb enclaves in the south, which in the past came under attack, now guarded by NATO troops in the province. Kosovo is also home to some 1,200 Serb Orthodox churches and monasteries, built from the 11th until the 20th century.

Now Jakšić says that the daily demonstrations organized in the north serve to protest the creation of another Albanian state, rather than to partition Kosovo.

"It would be incredibly stupid for Serbs to keep quiet when their territory is stolen. Such messages are in the spirit and in the interest of those who proclaimed another Albanian state in the Balkans," Jakšić said.

"If we manage to prevent the creation of such a state here, then that means it will start unraveling in other parts of Kosovo and Metohija too. And, asking the Serbs to keep quiet, is tantamount to treason," he warned.

Serbs in the north are welcoming KFOR and UNMIK, but have, just as Belgrade and Moscow, rejected the EU mission to the province, EULEX, as illegal.

The mission chief, Pieter Feith, yesterday announced that he was "temporarily withdrawing staff from the north", at the same time maintaining the EULEX office in Kosovska Mitrovica.

Jakšić said that the major part of international community has not recognized the self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo.

"The most important thing is that this artificial creation is not recognized by Belgrade. We are confident that this will never happen. After the magnificent rally in Belgrade, no one will dare do that," said Jakšić said.

"However, the rally and protests across Serbia are not enough to guarantee the survival of Serbs in the province. It will be important to have Serbia say whether it will protect them in a military manner if necessary. These people here expect it after the painful experience with international troops of KFOR and UNMIK police," Jakšić said, in reference to the March 2004 riots, when Albanians attacked and torched Serb enclaves and holy places.

"The state of Serbia is under obligation to protect its people in its territory, and Kosmet is that," Jakšić, close to Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), was quoted.

Another Kosovo Serb leader, Oliver Ivanović, said today that the north of Kosovo will in the coming period have a status "similar to that of the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia".

"This will last not for months, but for years. In fact, for as long as it takes to fully realize the dysfunctional nature of the legal and political system offered by Priština," Ivanović told Novi Sad daily Dnevnik.

According to him, Feith's decision yesterday does not constitute for "accepting of the actual state of affairs" by the EU.

"The mission will try to return to the north, because Brussels at this point excludes the partition of Kosovo. I am against that too, since most Serbs live south of the Ibar and their position would become unsustainable," Ivanović said.

Ivanović's told the daily that Serbia's decisive battle for Kosovo will begin "only when it becomes an EU candidate".