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No added NATO security in Kosovo

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  • NATO says no plans to increase security despite attacks on border checkpoints
  • Germany says it will begin establishing bilateral relations with Kosovo
  • Serbia warns diplomatic action will be taken against countries recognizing Kosovo
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(CNN) -- The commander of NATO forces in Kosovo said Wednesday he does not plan to step up security in the tense north despite violent attacks by Kosovo Serb which forced the temporary closure of two boundary crossings between Kosovo and Serbia.

Lt. Gen. Xavier de Marnhac spoke a day after protesters set fire to the crossings in the north, which is home to most of Kosovo's Serb minority.

United Nations officials described the violence as a "one-time incident" and said the situation Wednesday was calm.

Groups of Kosovo Serbs attacked the two boundary crossings Tuesday, setting fire to buildings and cars, UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) officials said. The crossings are along the administrative boundary line between Kosovo and Serbia.

In one attack, a group set fire to UNMIK customs offices and vehicles belonging to the Kosovo police service, said UNMIK spokesman Alexander Ivanko. In the other attack, a group of about 800 people set fire to customs offices, Ivanko said. Video Watch flames ravage border posts. »

There were no injuries, but the local and international police officers who were on site were outnumbered and simply removed equipment from the offices before they were burned, Ivanko said.

The U.N. special representative to Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, said the attacks were unacceptable.

"Violence is absolutely not an option and will not be tolerated in Kosovo," Ruecker told a news conference Wednesday. But he added, "I tend to see this as a one-time incident, and I think it was responded to in an appropriate way."

Ruecker said the United Nations was talking with leaders in northern Kosovo to discuss the violence.

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"Over the past 24 hours, the situation has been calm and quiet in Kosovo," Ivanko said. "Of course we have police patrols and KFOR is patrolling all over Kosovo, but we still expect the situation to continue to be normal."

A spokeswoman for KFOR, NATO's mission in Kosovo, said Kosovo's border with Serbia remained open except for the two crossing points attacked Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Valerie-Claire Bermond said the two crossing points were closed while KFOR rebuilt the installations destroyed in the attacks. They were reopened Wednesday.

KFOR troops have mostly been patrolling Kosovo's international borders, which have not included the boundary line with Serbia. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on Sunday.

After Tuesday's attacks, however, Ruecker requested that KFOR troops deploy to the two crossing points, Ivanko said. De Marnhac said his troops will stay there for now.

"We are going to maintain security in those two locations, but I do not intend to deploy any more forces there for the time being," de Marnhac told the news conference.

Kosovo's declaration of independence brought fears of violence between Kosovo's minority Serbs and majority ethnic Albanians. Kosovo's local police are supported by police officers from UNMIK and KFOR troops, which number 16,000.

The European Union is sending in a force of 1,900 police officers, customs and judicial officials, which will gradually replace the UNMIK police.

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu met Wednesday with new EU special representative, Pieter Feith, and afterward tried to reassure Kosovo's Serbs that they will be protected.

"What is important for us is that we invite all of Kosovo's citizens, especially Serbs, to return to and share lives as soon as possible, especially the part of the population that has second thoughts about it," Sejdiu told a news conference. "Kosovo is one, internationally supported and with a vision for the future."

Meanwhile the Associated Press reports that Italy considers independence for Kosovo to be "inevitable."

Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema says the Italian cabinet will consider when to recognize Kosovo's independence formally when it meets on Thursday.

The government of Germany announced Wednesday that it would recognize Kosovo's independence. The move followed the recognition by Great Britain, France, and the United States.


Russia, Serbia and China oppose Kosovo's declaration of independence. Spain has expressed concern that recognition will give momentum to secessionist movements in other countries, such as the Basques in northern Spain.

Serbia still considers Kosovo a province and has refused to recognize its self-declared status. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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