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Kosovo nationalists clash with police against Serbia deal


Clashes broke out on Thursday in front of the parliament building in Pristina between police and some 300 Kosovo nationalists protesting against an EU-brokered deal to normalise ties with Serbia.

Seventeen police officers sustained slight injuries while 68 demonstrators were detained. Authorities deployed pepper spray to break up the protesters, who sought in vain to block parliamentary ratification of the accord.

Protesters carried banners that read "The deal will not pass" and "A state cannot be built with thieves," and clashed with security forces deployed around the parliament.

They succeeded in briefly preventing lawmakers from entering the parliament building to attend the vote on ratification of the accord.

The demonstrators came from the Self-Determination movement, a nationalist party that seeks to unify Kosovo with neighbouring Albania.

Inside the parliament building, Albin Kurti, the movement's leader -- the third strongest in the Kosovo parliament -- managed to grab the microphone from the speaker.

"There will be no vote," Kurti said, but the deputies soon returned and ratified the deal with a comfortable majority.

Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci earlier said the 15-point accord "regulates the relations between Kosovo and Serbia" and "paves the way for stabilisation" in the northern part of the breakaway territory.

Belgrade and Kosovo minority Serbs refuse to recognise the 2008 independence of Kosovo, although some 100 countries, including the United States and all but five EU member states, have done so.

Under EU pressure however, Serbia and Kosovo reached agreement on normalising ties between the former foes.

The plan, not yet been made public, would allow some autonomy for the 40,000 ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo who, like Belgrade, refuse to recognise Pristina's unilateral declaration of independence in 2008.

The historic agreement paved the way for Serbia to begin talks by January 2014 to join the European Union -- a decision expected to be confirmed by EU leaders on Friday at a summit meeting in Brussels.

The EU bloc is also expected to adopt on Friday a mandate to start talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo, a first step towards membership.