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Ethnic Albanians clash with U.N. troops

A dispute over free movement erupted in violence Saturday, with French troops fighting back hundreds of ethnic Albanians trying to cross into the Serb part of this northern Kosovo town.

Amid curses and shoving, dozens of French soldiers kept ethnic Albanians from crossing a bridge over the Ibar River, while an equally agitated Serb crowd jeered from the far side.

At least four ethnic Albanians were arrested after fighting with soldiers. Three people were injured, including one woman who was driven off in an ambulance after being knocked down.

The violent protest continued for hours, and showed the deep-rooted hatred between Kosovo's Serbs and ethnic Albanians. That hatred has started to turn on NATO troops, who are in the region to provide security.

Kosovska Mitrovica, a mining center valued by Serbs and ethnic Albanians, is divided by the river into separate ethnic communities. Since the end of the Kosovo war in June, the central bridge has become a symbol of confrontation, with Serbs preventing ethnic Albanians from returning to live north of the river.

Efforts by the U.N. have failed to work out a free-movement agreement.

In a separate development, ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova said in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel magazine that Yugoslavia will never regain control of Kosovo, even if President Slobodan Milosevic is ousted.

Rugova, twice elected "president" of an unrecognized Kosovo republic, said the Serbs had lost their right to Kosovo.

Rugova also told Der Spiegel he would seek direct election as Kosovo's president.