Serb rail workers, clergy, shun Kosovo authorities
March 03, 2008 5:24 AM
KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Kosovo-Serb rail workers in Kosovo blocked a
freight train Monday and the Orthodox prelate ordered his clergy to
ignore state authorities and EU officials, in another sign that the
Serb minority was determined to shun the new nation.
About 50 Serbs employed by Kosovo's railroad met at a small station
in Zvecan, a town in the north of Kosovo which is part of an area
dominated by the Serb minority. They said they would refuse to work
for Kosovo's railway company and demanded to be transferred to
Serbia's state-owned railroad.
Another group of protesters blocked a freight train from pulling out
of the station.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Artemije, who heads the Serbian Orthodox Church
in Kosovo, ordered his clergy to immediately cease all contacts with
Kosovo's new authorities and with the EU mission being deployed to the region.
Serbia has rejected Kosovo's declaration of independence last month,
vowing to maintain control over the Serb-populated areas. Belgrade
has encouraged Kosovo Serbs to disobey the authorities in Pristina.
Belgrade and its ally Russia also maintain that the U.N. Security
Council has not authorized the EU mission, which is meant to replace
the current U.N. administration which has ruled Kosovo since a brief
war in 1999.
While ethnic Albanians account for nearly 90 percent of Kosovo's 2
million people, the Serb minority dominates a number of enclaves and
a large part of northern Kosovo.
Its leaders, supported by Belgrade, have vowed to ignore both the EU
mission and Kosovo's new government, and work only with the U.N.
In a statement, Artemije said any priest or monk who did not obey his
orders would be "severely sanctioned."
Pieter Feith, who heads the EU mission, has said that he would not
bow to Serbian pressure aimed at hindering the work of his team. He
has accused Belgrade of striving for a de facto division of Kosovo,
leaving the northern region under Belgrade's control.