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Serbs Protest EU Deployment in Northern Kosovo

Several thousand Serbs have rallied in northern Kosovo to protest the deployment of a European Union police and administrative mission.

The demonstrators took to the streets Thursday in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica. Smaller protests were held in other towns in Kosovo. No clashes or injuries were reported.

EU personnel are replacing a United Nations force that has operated in the former Serbian province since 1999. The deployment, opposed by Serbia and traditional ally Russia, is expected to be completed this year.

Mitrovica has been the scene of confrontations between ethnic Albanians and Serbs since Kosovo declared independence from Belgrade in February.

Serbian President Boris Tadic repeated this week that he considers Kosovo a part of Serbia. He said he would consider partitioning the province between its ethnic Albanian majority in the south and ethnic Serbs in the north.

The United States and 46 other countries have recognized Kosovo's independence. Serbia and Russia say Kosovo's declaration of independence is illegal.

Last week, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said the EU has failed to fully support Kosovo and its institutions. The group sharply criticized the long delays ahead of the EU mission's deployment in Kosovo.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.