Monday, March 17, 2008
Ethnic studies abroad
NATO troops in armored personnel carriers retook the Mitrovica courthouse in northern Kosovo on Monday that had been overrun by anti-independence rioters Friday in the most serious challenge to the new Kosovo state. NATO said its troops came under fire today as they entered the courthouse, which has become a flashpoint in the war of nerves and tempers that has erupted since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia last month. Independent Kosovo was quickly recognized by the United States and several European nations, but Serbia, Russia and China have stayed angrily opposed. Tensions had gotten so high in northern Kosovo, which is largely ethnic Serbian, that U.N. forces that had run Kosovo since 1999 had to be withdrawn and replaced by NATO peacekeepers. The population of Kosovo is 90 percent ethnic Albanian. Bridges over the Ibar river that divides the Serb north from the Albanian south were closed, according to the Reuters international news service. The United States condemned the violence against U.N. and NATO soldiers. "We urge all communities in Kosovo to remain calm and we call on the Serbian government to denounce these acts of violence and take affirmative steps to reduce tensions," U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casy said. The United Nations has controlled Kosovo since 1999, when NATO forces drove Serbia out of Kosovo in an effort to stop attacks on Albanians. Serbia, which is nearly all that's left of the old Yugoslavia, regards Kosovo as the heart of its historic civilization.