Source Pravda.Ru

NATO holds anti-riot drill as Kosovo talks near

NATO-led peacekeepers on Thursday hold a drill to confront potential riots in Kosovo as talks on the province's future status near.

During the drill, NATO troops will be flown in by helicopters to confront mock demonstrations and riots targeting buildings.

NATO's commander in Kosovo, Lt.Gen. Giuseppe Valotto, will lead the drill, dubbed Balkan Hawk II, which will take place in the Camp Vrelo military base close to the province's airport, a statement by the force said.

Authorities fear extremists could use violence to disrupt upcoming talks on whether Kosovo should become independent or remain part of Serbia.

The United Nations approved talks to resolve the province's status earlier this week.

Kosovo has been administered by the U.N. and patrolled by NATO since mid-1999. The province is bitterly divided between ethnic Albanians seeking independence and its Serb minority, which wants the province to remain within Serbia's borders.

In an incident highlighting the tensions, unknown assailants opened fire on a Kosovo police vehicle carrying four Serb officers in the southern part of the province late Wednesday, police said. No one was injured.

The peacekeepers held a similar drill earlier this month, intervening against mock crowds attacking a U.N. building. Both exercises are part of a larger rehearsal project, called "Determined Effort 2005," which started in mid-September and involves 1,500 troops.

There are some 17,500 NATO-led peacekeepers, known as KFOR, in Kosovo, reports the AP.

P.T.