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Kosovo temporarily bans Serb officials from entering country

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo temporarily banned Serbian officials from entering the country, triggering an angry reaction from Belgrade on Thursday. Kosovo's Foreign Ministry said it took the action because of "Serbia's threats against Kosovo and continuous propaganda" and that all entry requests from Serbian officials "will be rejected as long as this behavior continues."

The move comes after Serbian officials claimed Kosovo's government was trying to create a "humanitarian crisis" in the country's Serb-populated north with a 100% import tax slapped on Serbian goods last year.

Kosovo Serb shop owners closed their stores in northern Kosovo for two days this week to protest the taxes. Kosovo Foreign Ministry spokesman Jetlir Zyberaj said the closures took place "because of Belgrade's political objectives."

Serbia does not recognize the 2008 independence declaration of Kosovo, a former Serbian province. Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said the latest entry ban was an attempt to "cut all ties" between Kosovo Serbs and "their" Serbian leadership, and "this simply won't be allowed to happen."

Using the derogatory term in Serbia for ethnic Albanians, Vulin said the Kosovo government's ban was "not politics, but retaliation." Serb officials need entry permits from Pristina to visit Kosovo, but have sometimes managed to enter using alternative routes through forests.

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