K. Albanians "won’t give up on integration of north"

PRIŠTINA -- Kosovo Albanian Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi says the government in Priština was "determined to continue the implementation of their plan for the north".

He stated that this was the case despite the rise of tensions in the predominantly Serb-areas.

The so-called plan for integration, presented early this year by the Kosovo Albanian government and the International Civilian Office (ICO), aims to bring the Serb areas of the province under Priština's control, and has been rejected by Serbs living there and official Belgrade.

Now Rexhepi was quoted as saying that Priština would pursue the plan "despite obstructions and directives from Belgrade to prevent the implementation of the north of Kosovo into the central functions of the Kosovo government”.

“Protests will not stop us in any case. We approve of protests, but without violence,” said he.

Rexhepi's comments came after a series of incidents in northern Kosovo, including the one on Friday when a hand grenade was thrown during a peaceful protest of Serbs in northern Kosovska Mitrovica, killing one and injuring 11 persons.

On Monday, a Serb member of the Kosovo assembly in Priština was shot and wounded.

“We condemn the tragic death of the doctor, but also the wounding of the assembly member, and we qualify it as an unacceptable act but the Office for Civilian Issues (at Bošnjačka Mahala) will continue its work and will not be closed,” Rexhepi was quoted.

“We know that numerous political organizations but also Serbs are obstructing expansion of the Kosovo government’s functions but I decisively claim that the office and also other functions of our state in the north will function,” said the Kosovo Albanian politician.

When asked whether he expected a possible escalation of violence considering the terrorist attacks in Kosovska Mitrovica, he replied that minor protests were possible but that he thought that there would not be any incidents.

Rexhepi stated that KFOR, EULEX and Kosovo police, KPS, were there to prevent the incidents, but also to enable for the Serb part of Kosovska Mitrovica and the north to be "implemented into" Kosovo's institutions.

Serbs, meantime, repeated that they would not accept the "integration of north".

“I still strongly condemn EULEX police for taking the side of the (ethnic) Albanian community in the past days and not providing peace and security in northern (Kosovska) Mitrovica, and allowing the office to open,” said Kosovska Mitrovica District Chief Radenko Nedeljković.

He pointed out that the position of Serbs was clear, and that they would not not accept the integration of the north into the self-proclaimed institutions of Priština.