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Serbs Attack Kosovo's Ethnic Albanian PM - 2003-12-07

A group of Serbs in the troubled province of Kosovo attacked the province's ethnic Albanian prime minister and a visiting delegation from the World Bank on Saturday. The incident occurred in the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica.

Witnesses said a crowd of Serbs attacked a restaurant where the World Bank delegation was dining with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi.

The United Nations, which is currently governing the province, said in a statement that dozens of Serbs threw stones, bricks and concrete blocks at the establishment in the Serbian sector of Kosovska Mitrovica.

Kosovo's northern town is a symbol of ethnic troubles in the region. It is divided between Serb and Albanian regions, with NATO peacekeepers patrolling a key bridge to prevent violence between them.

A U.N. spokesperson said one international official was slightly injured during Saturday's attack at the restaurant, but added that Prime Minister Rexhepi escaped injury.

Mr. Rexhepi was reportedly evacuated to the ethnic Albanian southern part of the divided town.

The prime minister's office said two Kosovo police cars and another vehicle were burned, while the windows of a U.N. bus were smashed.

A representative of Kosovo's Serb minority, the province's agriculture minister, Goran Bogdanovi, accused the government of using the meeting at the restaurant in a Serb area as "a provocation to the Serbs to cause an incident" ahead of a meeting in Belgium about the future of Kosovo.

Serbia, which forms a loose alliance with tiny Montenegro, wants to keep Kosovo under its control, but leaders of the province's ethnic Albanian majority want independence.

A 20,000-strong, NATO-led peacekeeping force has been deployed in Kosovo since mid-1999.

The latest violence came after Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic accused the United Nations of failing to improve security in Kosovo in the last four years.