Serbia talks up armed invention

Kosovo unanimously OKs formation of new army

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Serbia threatened a possible armed intervention in Kosovo after the Kosovo parliament on Friday overwhelmingly approved the formation of an army. Belgrade called the move a “direct threat to peace and stability” in the Balkans and lashed out at the United States for supporting it.

While NATO’s chief called the action by Kosovo “ill-timed,” the U.S. approved it as “Kosovo’s sovereign right” as an independent nation that unilaterally broke away from Serbia in 2008.

All 107 lawmakers present in the 120-seat Kosovo parliament voted in favor of passing three draft laws to expand an existing 4,000 Kosovo Security Force and turn it into a regular, lightly armed army. Ethnic Serb lawmakers boycotted the vote.

Serbia insists the new army violates a U.N. resolution that ended Serbia’s bloody crackdown on Kosovar separatists in

1998-99. It has warned bluntly that it may respond with an armed intervention in its former province, with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic saying that’s “one of the options on the table.”

On Friday, Nikola Selakovic, an adviser to the Serbian president, said the country could send in armed forces or declare Kosovo an occupied territory. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Serbia will seek an urgent session of the U.N. Security Council over the issue.

The Security Council held closed consultations late Friday on the format of a meeting, possibly on Monday or Tuesday. Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks were private, said Russia, a close ally of Serbia, wants an open meeting to be addressed by Serbia’s president while European nations want a closed session.

The decision will be made by Ivory Coast’s U.N. ambassador, the current council president, the diplomats said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres affirmed the U.N.’s desire to maintain the Kosovo Force as the body that ensures the safety of Kosovo, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said late Friday.

He said “the secretary-general calls on all parties concerned to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could raise tensions and cause a further setback in the European Union-facilitated dialogue for the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic visited Serbian troops near the border with Kosovo and later Vucic addressed the nation, denouncing the United States for its apparent support of a Kosovo army and praising allies Russia and China for their opposition to the move.