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HT: ARMED GROUP OF ALBANIANS TRIES NERVES



Regional.

The appearance of an armed ethnic Albanian group, reportedly patrolling near Kosovo's boundary with Serbia, has tested the nerves of politicians and international officials in the region, days before the next round of talks on the province's future.

Television footage of around a dozen masked men - claiming to be members of a shadowy guerrilla organization called the Albanian National Army and promising to attack Serbian forces if they invaded Kosovo - was broadcast by Kosovo's main public television channel Wednesday, prompting protests from President Boris Tadic of Serbia and condemnation from senior Kosovo Albanian politicians.

Tadic suggested that the appearance of the broadcast on the government-backed channel, Radio Television Kosova, was an ethnic Albanian "threat to use violence and scare the Serb population in Kosovo and an attempt to influence the negotiations," according to the Serbian state-run news agency Tanjug.

Kosovo's prime minister, Agim Ceku, a former guerrilla commander during the 1999 conflict in the province, told the same broadcaster that the "appearance of such individuals does not send a good message for Kosovo."

The specter of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla movement appearing as Kosovo enters what is expected to be the last stage of negotiations between the Serbian government and ethnic Albanian leaders before a December deadline, is regarded by many international officials as a nightmare scenario. The two sides are due to meet in London next Sunday.

MD: Such groups have been reported in Macedonia too lately. Again a conflict coming up? That's the last thing we need, for both sides.


[Herald Tribune]

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February 27 2010:
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