Kosovo police patrol attacked in volatile north

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PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo police said one of their patrols close to the Serbian border came under fire on Saturday, in an area of the country marred by ethnic disputes and smuggling activities.

Tensions between western Balkan neighbours Kosovo and Serbia

have flared recently and came to a head last week after Kosovo said it would oblige Serbs living in the north of the country and using Serbian car licence plates to apply for plates issued by Pristina institutions. The obligation has now been postponed.

Ethnic Serbs make up around 5 percent of the Kosovan population, which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian.

"There were at least 10 shots… they hit close to a police boat but no one was injured," police said in a statement.Police said their patrol came under fire close to the town of Zubin Potok when they were trying to launch a boat on the Gazivoda lake, part of the border. In an attempt to defuse tensions the leaders of both countries, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti, will meet in Brussels on Aug. 18. Around 50,000 Serbs live in the north of Kosovo but they do not recognize its 2008 declaration of independence. They maintain close links with Belgrade.Kosovo is recognized by more than 100 countries, mainly western, but not by Serbia, Russia, China and others.Kosovo's fragile peace is maintained by NATO's KFOR mission, which has 3,770 troops on the ground. At the moment NATO is only monitoring the situation but it has said it is prepared to intervene in line with its mandate if stability was jeopardized.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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