NATO concerned, Serbia angry after Kosovo announces new army

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By Associated Press

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s parliament on Friday overwhelmingly approved the formation of an army, angering Serbia which talked up the possibility of an armed intervention in response. NATO’s chief called Kosovo’s move “ill-timed” and urged dialogue to maintain peace in the war-scarred region.

The 120-seat parliament voted with all present 107 lawmakers in favor of passing three draft laws to expand an existing 4,000 Kosovo Security Force and turn it into a regular lightly armed army. Ethnic-Serb community lawmakers boycotted the vote.

Serbia insists that the new army violates a U.N. resolution that ended Kosovo’s 1998-1999 bloody war of independence. It has warned bluntly that it may respond to the move with an armed intervention in the former province, with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic saying it was “one of the options on the table.”

Kosovo’s 1998-1999 war ended with a 78-day NATO air campaign.Google Maps

On Friday, Nikola Selakovic, an adviser to the Serbian president, said the county could send in Serbian armed forces or declare Kosovo an occupied territory.

In Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, Serb leader Goran Rakic said the new army was “unacceptable” and “showed clearly that Pristina does not want peace.” Rakic urged Serbs in Kosovo to show “restraint and not respond to provocations.”

Any Serbian armed intervention in Kosovo would mean a direct confrontation with thousands of NATO-led peacekeepers, including U.S. soldiers, stationed in Kosovo since 1999.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move not recognized by Belgrade or its ally Russia. Tensions have remained high between the two sides, and NATO and the European Union — which has led years-long talks to improve ties between the Balkan neighbors — expressed regret that Kosovo decided to go ahead with the army formation.


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