NATO Vows to Stay Course in Kosovo Despite Clashes

BRUSSELS -- NATO peacekeepers will continue ensuring that freedom of movement is respected in Kosovo, the military alliance's chief said Monday, days after attempts to dismantle Serb roadblocks in the country left at least six people injured.

There have been several clashes between troops with the KFOR peacekeeping mission and Serbs - the majority in the north of the mostly Albanian Kosovo - since the latter erected roadblocks to prevent authorities from establishing control over their enclave.

At least two KFOR soldiers and four Serbs were reported injured during an incident on Friday.

"I strongly regret that we saw violence during recent days," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels, while also insisting that the KFOR troops "acted in self-defence" and praising them for how they handled the situation.

"I can assure you that KFOR will continue to implement the United Nations mandate to maintain a secure environment and ensure the freedom of movement," he added. "I urge all parties to do their utmost to stop violence and ensure a peaceful solution."

Rasmussen also took the opportunity to express hope for "improvements" in relations between the military alliance and Serbia, whose new president, Tomislav Nikolic, is a professed NATO sceptic.

Nikolic has also raised eyebrows by arguing that the massacre of Muslims by Serb forces at Srebrenica in 1995 was not genocide.

"I think it's for the international tribunal in The Hague to make the legal judgment, which they have done already," Rasmussen noted.

"I hope we can continue the positive dialogue we have had with Serbia," he added. "My vision as regards the Western Balkans is very clear - I would like to see all countries in the region integrated in the euro-Atlantic structures, the European Union and NATO."

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