EU, NATO Condemn Attacks by Serb Militants

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The European Union and NATO have condemned attacks by Serb militants in Kosovo that have injured 50 NATO peacekeepers and jeopardized Serbia's application to become a candidate for membership in the EU.

The latest violence involved militants among the Serbian minority in northern Kosovo.

Kosovo broke away from Serb rule in 2008, but Serbia has never accepted its independence, and Kosovo Serbs for months have blocked roads in the tense northern region to reject the Pristina government's authority. Some 25 NATO soldiers and several dozen Serb protesters were wounded in clashes Monday, and 21 peacekeepers were wounded last week.

"The use of violence against (NATO troops) is unacceptable and we deplore it," the North Atlantic Council, NATO's governing body said in a statement Thursday. "We urge all parties to exercise restraint and ... ensure freedom of movement without delay."

Separately, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels also denounced the violence.

The statements came as Serbia and Kosovo took part Thursday in the latest round of EU-sponsored talks in Brussels about normalizing border procedures and other practical matters. The talks are seen as a key condition for Serbia to be granted candidate status in the EU next week.

The EU is now divided over whether to formally make Serbia a candidate, a key step on the road to eventual membership.

Germany has said it would block the move because of the deteriorating situation. But others insist Serbia should be rewarded for its arrest of indicted war criminals, including fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, and their extradition to the war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia.

"Serbia should be given a positive signal and France is in favor of candidate status," French Foreign minister Alain Juppe said.