March 9, 2015 / 4:18 PM / 2 years ago

Slobodan Milosevic Street? Not likely, warns Kosovo government

A picture of Slobodan Milosevic sits on a table in front of an audience at a commemorative service for the former Yugoslav president in the Serb enclave of Gracanica in Kosovo, March 14, 2006.Hazir Reka

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's government warned ethnic Serbs on Monday not to follow through on a decision to name a street after late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, whose crackdown in the former Serbian province triggered war with NATO in 1999.

An estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in Kosovo and almost 1 million were put to flight during a brutal counter-insurgency war waged by forces under Milosevic in 1998-99, before NATO intervened with 78 days of air strikes and Kosovo embarked on a path to independence in 2008.

Ninety percent of the young country's 1.8 million people are ethnic Albanians, but a small Serb minority remains.

Online newspaper Gazeta Express reported at the weekend that the ethnic Serb-run municipality of Ranilug in eastern Kosovo had decided in September last year to name a street after Milosevic. The report carried pictures of the nameplate ready to be erected.

"For the Kosovo government such a decision is unacceptable," Bajram Gecaj, the deputy minister of local government administration, told Reuters.

"We expect from the Ranilug municipal assembly to sit and change the decision and if that does not happen then we will take the necessary action based on the law," he said.

In response, Ranilug municipal assembly head Sasa Aleksic said the decision had been shelved "for more discussion".

Milosevic was ousted from power by popular protests in Serbia in October 2000, and died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for war crimes including genocide during the disintegration of socialist Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Inter-ethnic violence has largely subsided in Kosovo, but relations between Serbs and Albanians remain tense. Kosovo has been recognized by more than 100 countries, but Serbia refuses to follow suit.

Editing by Matt Robinson/Mark Heinrich

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