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Kosovo Albanians block roads to prevent Serb rally

Associated Press logo Associated Press 29/03/2017 By SYLEJMAN KLLOKOQI, Associated Press

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Albanians in Kosovo blocked roads Wednesday to prevent the local Serb minority and people coming from Serbia from holding an electoral rally.

Police said that the road was blocked in five or six locations but cleared after a couple of hours.

Media said Albanians raised roadblocks to stop some 60 buses from Serbia and more from the local population from reaching a rally in Leposavic.

A police statement said Albanians had blocked the roads "to express their discontent against Serbia's elections held in Kosovo and against Serbia's visits and intervention in Kosovo."

Kosovo's Serbs can vote in Sunday's Serbian presidential election.

Protesters held flags and posters telling the Serb minority "You belong to this country and not to (Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar) Vucic," ''Heading to Brussels and not to Moscow," ''Let's build Kosovo together" and more, according to police.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, invoking the right to freedom of assembly, strongly denounced the roadblocks as "unacceptable."

"Freedom of movement, freedom of rallying, freedom of political thinking and freedom of expression are guaranteed from Kosovo's constitution and its laws," Thaci wrote on his Facebook page. "That's valid for each Kosovo citizen and no one will be allowed to violate such rights."

Serbian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Aleksandar Vucic on Tuesday abandoned plans to travel to Kosovo to campaign, saying he was not prepared to abide by the conditions set by the Kosovo government, pointing to "blackmail, pressure and circus from Pristina."

Kosovo media reported that the government had specified that Vucic's visit could only last three hours and that he must not be accompanied by his interior or defense minister.

Tensions between the two countries have risen in the past four months following a series of incidents.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has not recognized it.

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Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania contributed.

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