Kosovo-Serbia border clash leaves several hurt

K-For soldiers reinforce the Jarinje border crossing in Kosovo K-For said its soldiers at the Jarinje crossing fired in self-defence

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Several people have been injured in a clash between ethnic Serbs and Nato peacekeepers in the north of Kosovo.

A Nato spokesman said four soldiers were hurt by pipe bombs thrown at their positions, and that troops replied with tear gas and rubber bullets.

However, a hospital boss said six ethnic Serb civilians admitted with wounds had been shot with live rounds.

Tension has soared recently after Kosovo moved to take control of its border crossings with Serbia.

The move has been resisted by ethnic Serbs in the north of Kosovo, who refuse to recognise the sovereignty of the government in Pristina.

Previously, the border posts had been guarded by ethnic Serb members of the Kosovan police. The ethnic Albanian government suspected them of failing to implement customs controls.

Kosovan Serbs have built roadblocks to prevent access to two contested border posts, and even built a new track into Serbia to circumvent the crossing at Jarinje.

'Pipe bombs'

On Tuesday, troops from Nato's K-For mission used bulldozers to remove the roadblock near the Jarinje border post, Reuters reports.

Witnesses said troops later fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a large crowd of ethnic Serbs who had gathered in protest.

Nato spokesman Kai Gudenoge said they had only fired back after being pelted with stones and that improvised bombs were also thrown.

"Four solders were injured in explosions of pipe bombs. Three have minor injuries, while the fourth, who has serious injuries, will be evacuated," he said.

However, Milan Jakovljevic, the head of the hospital in the Serb part of the divided city of Mitrovica, said six men had been treated for wounds caused by live rounds, not rubber bullets.

He said 10 others had minor injuries.

Goran Bogdanovic, Serbia's Minister for Kosovo, blamed K-For for the violence, saying: "It is absolutely unacceptable to shoot at unarmed people."

The violence came as talks between the Serbian and Kosovan governments were due to resume, under EU mediation, in Brussels later on Tuesday.

The EU issued a statement calling for the barricades to be dismantled.

Belgrade has refused to recognise Kosovo's declaration of independence, and still regards it as part of its territory.

Around 80 countries have recognised Kosovo, but a still larger number have withheld recognition.

Correction 28 September 2010: We originally said "More than 80 countries have recognised Kosovo" but changed it to "Around 80" because Serbia contests Kosovo's claim of recognition in a few cases.

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