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Police Ban Serbian Officials From Entering Kosovo

Goran Bogdanovic, Serbia's minister for Kosovo, was turned back.
PRISTINA (Reuters) -- Kosovo's border police have refused to allow a Belgrade government delegation to cross the boundary, weeks after the new republic's authorities warned Serbian officials to seek entry permission beforehand.

Police said they had turned back Serbia's minister for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanovic, and seven other officials at a border crossing near Kosovo's eastern town of Gnjilane.

Sanja Svonja, a ministry spokeswoman, said Bogdanovic was expecting to hold a meeting of a parliamentary commission in the Kosovo Serb village of Ranilug. "The meeting had to be cancelled," she said.

"If they [Serbian officials] want to enter Kosovo they should inform our Foreign Ministry," said Fisnik Rexhepi, an adviser to Kosovo's interior minister. "This applies to official visits, everybody can enter, if on a private visit."

Serbia considers Kosovo part of its territory, one year after its former province declared independence.

Officials from Belgrade frequently visit Serbian-populated areas in Kosovo. About 120,000 Serbs live in Kosovo, many in enclaves scattered throughout the ethnic Albanian-dominated territory.

Kosovo's independence is recognized by 56 countries, including the United States and most European Union members, but opposed by Serbia and its ally Russia.