Priština, 31 January 2008 – Police forces in the tense north of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo have been built up with the addition of dozens of U.N. security forces, the Kosovo Police Service said Thursday.

The extra international police were dispatched to four main stations in the area where the Serb majority has signaled they will not accept a declaration of Kosovo’s independence.

A police statement didn’t disclose the number of the additional forces, but an official told AFP “around 40 U.N. police officers became operational in northern Kosovo from today.”

Local media said the move was part of the heavy security preparations being made in Kosovo ahead of a declaration of independence by the leaders of the territory’s ethnic Albanian majority.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said Wednesday that Pristina would make the declaration within days of Sunday’s presidential election runoff in Serbia, regardless of who wins.

The move has raised fears of violence in the north, especially in the town of Kosovska Mitrovica where the Ibar river splits Serbs in the north from ethnic Albanians in the south.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization last week started deploying an additional 560 Italian soldiers in Kosovo who will be on hand for a month from Monday in central and northern parts of the U.N.-administered province.

Source: AFP