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Serbia, Kosovo Trade Barbs

BRUSSELS, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Violence along the Serbian-Kosovar border was the act of thugs and criminals, a Serbian official sent to Brussels to speak with European leader said.

Serbian President Boris Tadic is upset that Kosovo Albanian authorities announced they were going to open customs offices along the Serbian border. Tadic repeatedly stressed the dispute should be resolved without violence, however.

Fighting broke out last week after the government in Pristina ordered troops to set up border checkpoints in the mostly Serb populated regions in the north to enforce a recent trade embargo with Serbia.

NATO’s peacekeeping force for Kosovo said some of its forces came under attack along the border by unknown gunmen in the area.

Robert Cooper, a mediator for the European Union, met his Serbian negotiator Borko Stefanovic to call for regional calm.

“We were appalled by this act,” Stefanovic was quoted by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle as saying.

He added, however, that it was an effort by regional Albanians to gain more control over Serbians in the north.

Kosovo Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi was quoted as saying his country wouldn’t step back from its international rights to sovereignty.

“This is reality regardless of whether Serbia and some other countries accept it or not,” he said.

Serbia doesn’t recognize the unilaterally declared independence of its former province and ethnic Serbs in the north don’t accept the Pristina government’s authority.

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

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