Serbia Seizes Rail Link in Kosovo

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Kosovo -- Serbia has reclaimed control of a 50-kilometer stretch of rail line in northern Kosovo, a senior official said Monday, in defiance of the new state's government.

"We are restoring our control over [this line] after a period of nine years," said Branislav Ristivojevic, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and chairman of Serbia's state-owned railroad company.

Earlier, a few dozen Serbian railroad workers blocked passage of a freight train on the line, saying they would not work for Kosovo's railway company and demanding to be transferred to Serbia's state-owned railroad.

The surprise move is likely to increase tensions between the Serbs and Kosovo's authorities and NATO peacekeepers. It is in line with the Belgrade government's instructions to the Serb minority to shun any contact with Kosovo's government after it declared independence two weeks ago, and to work directly with Serbia instead.

Serbia and ally Russia maintain that the UN Security Council has not authorized an EU mission that is meant to replace the current UN administration that has ruled Kosovo since 1999.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry protested on Monday the creation of an international group to help guide Kosovo, saying it violated UN decisions and could lead to "unpredictable consequences."