JANUARY 28 2014 09:14h

Moderate Kosovo Serb leader arrested

Oliver Ivanović

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Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic was arrested in Kosovska Mitrovica on Monday evening on suspicion of involvement in war crimes committed in the late 1990s.

Ivanovic, regarded as a moderate, was arrested after a day-long hearing by EU law enforcement mission (EULEX) investigators as part of an ongoing investigation of war crimes committed in 1999 and 2000.

According to unconfirmed reports by media in Belgrade, Ivanovic was summoned for questioning based on a 2011 article in the Pristina-based Koha Ditore newspaper saying that his name was mentioned in a United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) file among suspects in the murder of 10 Albanians in the north of Kosovska Mitrovica in 2000. At the time, Jovanovic rejected the allegations as "senseless and unfounded", recalling that the case had been investigated by UNMIK in 2002 and no indictment had been issued.

His lawyer Nebojsa Vlajic told the media in Belgrade that Ivanovic was suspected of two serious crimes committed in 1999 and 2000 in which Kosovo Albanians had been killed. He described the charges as "senseless and politically motivated".

The arrest prompted a protest rally of his political followers and residents of Kosovska Mitrovica.

Meanwhile in Brussels, another round of EU-mediated talks on normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo ended inconclusively.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said later that the meeting had focused, among other things, on a repeat of mayoral elections in north Kosovska Mitrovica and forthcoming parliamentary elections in Serbia.

The next round of talks was set for February 12.