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Halt To Deadly Albanian-Serb Violence In Kosovo

Halt To Deadly Albanian-Serb Violence In Kosovo

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for an immediate halt to the violence between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in United Nations-administered Kosovo, which has reportedly left at least seven people dead and hundreds injured amid repeated bursts of automatic gunfire and explosions.

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said a large riot erupted after a crowd of some 3,000 people gathered in the south of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, attacked the UNMIK police station and regional headquarters, then marched across a bridge and attacked Serbs in the north.

It added that the situation was far from stable and there were reports of clashes elsewhere in Kosovo, which has been under UN administration since 1999 when NATO confirmed the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from the province following fighting between ethnic Albanians and Serbs.

In a <"">statement issued by his spokesman in New York, Mr. Annan strongly condemned the violence, which also hit the towns of Lipljan, Pec, and Gnjilane, and said preliminary reports indicated that several KFOR international security force soldiers and UNMIK civilian police were among the casualties.

"He urges all parties involved to bring an immediate halt to the violence, which jeopardizes the stability of Kosovo and the security of all its people," the statement added.

Expressing full support for the efforts of his Special Representative and the rest of the international community in Kosovo, Mr. Annan called on local authorities to help return the situation to normal, and bring to justice those responsible for the violence.

Declaring "this is a dark day for Kosovo," Special Representative Harri Holkeri issued a statement in Pristina, the capital, calling on people to return to their homes and allow the police and KFOR to do their jobs and provide security for everyone.

"There is no excuse for further violence," he said. "It is essential that people remain calm and do not add to the tension and general insecurity."

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