German general Drews takes over NATO's Kosovo mission

9th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

German general Erhard Drews on Friday took over the command over the NATO-led mission in Kosovo (KFOR), as the tense Serb-majority north remained the main challenge for the peacekeeping force.

Drews replaced fellow countryman General Erhard Buhler at a ceremony in the KFOR headquarters in Pristina.

KFOR should continue to be "a preventing force for all those extremists who by violence want to achieve political goals," Kosovo president Atifete Jahjaga said at the ceremony.

The handover came a day after a top NATO official warned that the situation in Kosovo's tense north remained the main challenge for the Alliance troops on the ground.

Tensions have been running high in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo since a trade row in July spilled over into violence at two flashpoint border posts with Serbia, when Pristina forcibly replaced ethnic Serb border guards attached to the Kosovo police with ethnic Albanian officers to enforce the trade ban with Serbia.

An ethnic Albanian police officer was killed and four injured in clashes that ensued as angry Kosovo Serbs reacted, forcing KFOR to step in.

NATO peacekeepers have maintained security in Kosovo since the end of 1998-1999 war between Belgrade-backed forces and ethnic Albanian pro-independence guerrillas.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 and has since been recognised by more then 80 countries. However, Serbia still considers it to be its southern province.

© 2011 AFP

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