Kosovo issues arrest warrant for Serb minister for illegal entry

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo has issued an arrest warrant for a Serbian minister who entered the country illegally, a police spokesman said on Saturday, a move that may hamper implementation of a deal to normalise ties between Pristina and Belgrade.

Pristina authorities said Aleksandar Vulin, the Serbian minister in charge of Kosovo, had visited ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo last week during campaigning for local elections on November 3.

"We have received an arrest warrant on Vulin and we will act accordingly," Kosovo police spokesman Brahim Sadriu said, without giving further details.

Serbia and Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, signed a landmark deal in April under which Belgrade agreed to cede its de facto hold over a small Serb-populated pocket of Kosovo, whose majority population is ethnic Albanian.

Under the deal, the northern Serb pocket is slated to take part in Kosovo's municipal election on Nov 3.

In part as a reward for the deal, the European Union is expected to open accession talks with Serbia in coming months.

Vulin, who is now back in Belgrade, could not be reached by telephone. A Serbian government spokesman declined to comment.

Earlier this week Serbia's Blic daily quoted Prime Minister Ivica Dacic as saying that the arrest of Vulin would be a violation of the Brussels agreement mediated by the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"(Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim) Thaci assured me himself in the presence of Ashton that Vulin can travel to Kosovo whenever and wherever he wants," Dacic was quoted as saying.

Dacic himself visited Kosovo last Saturday and urged Serbs to take part in the municipal election.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina and Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade, Editing by Gareth Jones)