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article imageSerbia president says army being 'dramatically strengthened'

By AFP     Nov 10, 2018 in World

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday said the country's army was being "dramatically" strengthened.

Vucic was speaking as he attended a major military exercise to mark the end of World War I and after Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said in an interview with AFP on Friday that Pristina was sticking to its recent decision to create its own army.

That decision has provoked anger from Kosovo's own ethnic Serb minority as well as from Serbia.

NATO, which leads a military force that ensures Kosovo's security, has also expressed serious reservations.

Vucic told the state-run RTS television Saturday that his country's army was among the strongest in the region with exception of Romania.

"Us (Serbia) and the Hungarians are similar, but all the others are far, far behind.

"We are dramatically strengthening our army," said Vucic after attending the exercise in Serbia's east.

"We will have to arm ourselves in line with new technologies, we already ordered from our Chinese friends (our) first armed drones. People will see that in 2019."

About 8,000 soldiers, 100 tanks and eight MiG-29 jets participated in the 'Century of Winners' exercise, local media reported.

Vucic and Thaci had a tense meeting Thursday in Brussels to relaunch dialogue on the normalisation of ties between the former foes.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

The move came a decade after the 1998-1999 war between Belgrade forces and pro-independence ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

Serbia -- and its main ally Russia -- refuse to recognise Kosovo's independence, although more than 100 countries, including the United States and most European Union member states, have done so.

Both Vucic and Thaci are expected in Paris for WWI commemoration services this weekend.

Belgrade and Pristina have to settle a range of sensitive issues, including the question of their common border.

Majority ethnic-Albanian Kosovo, with a population of 1.8 million, is home to about 120,000 ethnic Serbs.

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