Monday, June 06, 2005

NATO hands over control of bridge in ethnically divided Kosovo town to police

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - NATO peacekeepers handed over control of a key bridge symbolizing Kosovo's ethnic divide to the province's police on Monday, a spokesman for the force said.

The bridge over the Ibar river in the northern town of Kosovska Mitrovica has in the past six years been the scene of periodic violent clashes between the ethnic Albanian majority, which lives south of the river, and Serb minority, which lives north of it.

The opening of the bridge for civilian traffic will happen gradually over a trial period of several weeks, said Larry Miller, a spokesman for the police.

If the handover goes smoothly, it will mark an easing of tensions between the communities ahead of key talks to determine the province's future expected later this year.

The NATO-led force has been patrolling this disputed U.N.-run province since 1999, following the alliances' war against Serb forces in the province.

No comments: