NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned on Thursday in Kosovo that the alliance would not tolerate any violence in the Serbian breakaway province after clashes last weekend between police and ethnic Albanians protesting a UN plan left two dead.
The NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) "will not tolerate any form of violence," Scheffer was quoted as saying by the Serbian official Tanjug news agency.
His visit to Kosovo follows a weekend demonstration of about 3, 000 ethnic Albanians, who broke through a security cordon and tried to march toward a government building in the provincial capital Pristina, while protesting that the UN plan failed to give Kosovo outright independence.
UN riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas. Two ethnic Albanian men were killed by rubber bullet wounds to the head, while another two were seriously injured. Dozens were treated for tear gas.
Scheffer said that he assured his Serb friends that KFOR would remain in the province after its status is resolved and that Kosovo settlement would be made legitimate by the United Nations.
KFOR leads some 16,500 soldiers from 38 nations in Kosovo, which has been under UN administration since 1999 after NATO bombings halted Serbian crackdown on insurgent Kosovo Albanians.
KFOR, Kosovo Police Service and UN police are working together to secure safety for all in Kosovo, he said, adding that NATO allies support the settlement plan presented by UN envoy for Kosovo status talks Martti Ahtisaari.
The plan, which will set the ethnic Albanian-dominated province on a path to statehood this year, is "balanced" and takes into consideration all the facts as well as the regional security and stability requirements, said Scheffer.
On Wednesday evening, the Serbian parliament adopted a resolution binding all major parties into rejection of Ahtisaari's proposal, which is expected to be discussed by the UN Security Council in late March.
Scheffer called on Serbia and Kosovo Albanians to "work on the basis of the Ahtisaari proposals in a constructive way, because there is really no alternative."
Scheffer met key ethnic Albanian leaders, UN officials and the NATO commander as well as Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo.