Thursday, April 21, 2005

Kosovo's Rugova gets security boost after threats.

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, April 21 (Reuters) - U.N. police stepped up security near the house of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova on Thursday, responding to what police sources said were threats against the ethnic Albanian president.

Vehicles of the U.N. police force and local ethnic Albanian police units were parked on all main intersections leading to Rugova's residence on a hill above the Kosovo capital.

Police were checking cars and only residents could pass.

The measures follow a spate of bombings and shootings in the U.N.-run province since the indictment and surrender of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Kosovo is also nearing potentially explosive talks on its "final status" in the autumn.

"We've seen some threats over the last few weeks," a senior U.N. police source told Reuters when asked why security had been stepped up. "We're trying to make sure everyone is okay."

Rugova, leader of Kosovo's largest political party, escaped unhurt last month when a roadside bomb exploded in a garbage container as his convoy went past. No arrests have been made.

Kosovo's political scene has become increasingly acrimonious since Haradinaj's resignation on March 8 to face war crimes charges at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

On Sunday a bomb exploded at the offices of a small opposition party led by Kosovo Albanian publisher Veton Surroi, two days after gunmen killed Haradinaj's younger brother, Enver.

Diplomats say the departure of the charismatic former rebel commander left a gaping hole in Kosovo's governing coalition.

Opposition parties have since levelled accusations of corruption and criminality against the government, trying to capitalise on the loss of its popular leader.

Kosovo's U.N. overseers have warned extremists could try to destabilise the province as it nears talks on whether the ethnic Albanian majority gets the independence it demands, or Kosovo remains part of Serbia.

The province of 2 million people became a U.N. protectorate in 1999 after 78 days of NATO bombing to expel Serb forces accused of killing and expelling thousands of Albanian civilians as they tried to crush the separatist rebels.

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