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Nato boosts presence in Kosovo with 600 UK troops as tensions with Serbia rise

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Some 600 British soldiers are to be deployed in Kosovo to reinforce Nato’s presence in the former province of Serbia which was last week rocked by armed clashes, the alliance said.

They are from a reserve force made available at the weekend to KFOR, the force deployed by Nato in Kosovo, to deal with the situation and the resurgence of tension in the region.

“The UK is deploying around 200 soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment to join a 400-strong UK contingent already exercising in Kosovo, and further reinforcements will follow from other Allies,” Nato spokesman Dylan White said on Sunday.

“The decision follows the violent attack on Kosovo Police on 24 September, and increased tensions in the region,” he added, without explicitly referring to Washington’s statement on Friday warning of a Serbian military build-up on Kosovo’s border.

Serbia’s president denied reports of a military build-up along the border with Kosovo, complaining of a “campaign of lies” against his country.

Kosovo’s government said Saturday it was monitoring the movements of the Serbian military from “three different directions”. It urged Serbia to immediately pull back its troops and demilitarise the border area.

Dozens of Nato soldiers hurt in Kosovo in clash with Serbs

“A campaign of lies … has been launched against our Serbia,” President Aleksandar Vucic responded in a video post on Instagram. “They have lied a lot about the presence of our military forces … In fact, they are bothered that Serbia has what they describe as sophisticated weapons.”

Nato again called for calm on Sunday and demanded that Belgrade and Pristina resume dialogue as soon as possible as “the only way to achieve lasting peace”, White said.

A Kosovo police officer was killed last Sunday in an ambush in the north of Kosovo, where Serbs are in the majority in several towns.

A shoot-out ensued between the Kosovo police special forces and heavily armed Serbs.

It marked one of the most serious escalations in Kosovo in recent years.

Serbia refuses to recognise the independence of its former southern province, which has an Albanian majority, a decade after a deadly war between Kosovo independence guerillas and Serbian forces, which ended after a Nato bombing campaign.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and dpa

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