Police in Kosovo fired tear gas and water cannon Saturday to disperse hundreds of protesters trying to stop traffic entering from Serbia in the latest flare-up in the Balkan country.

The Kosovo Albanian demonstrators were protesting against what they say are Serbian efforts to obstruct economic and political development in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

More than a dozen police officers were wounded as protesters hurled rocks at them in the town of Podujevo near the main Merdare border crossing and at Dheu i Bardhe, another border crossing with Serbia in eastern Kosovo, police said.

A Reuters reporter saw several injured protesters.

The protesters were followers of the opposition political party Self-Determination, which grew out of a radical youth activist movement.

It's not right to block us and not Serbia, the party's leader Albin Kurti told the demonstrators before the police intervened to disperse the crowd. Serbia is the enemy of the Kosovo state and our motto is 'Serbia will not pass'!

Police said at least 145 protesters were detained including five members of the Kosovo Parliament from the Self-Determination party.

The operation was led by Kosovo police, without the visible involvement of NATO peacekeepers or European Union police who also patrol the country of 1.7 million people.

Several hours after the violence, traffic was again crossing in both border crossings but riot police were still on the streets.

Ninety percent ethnic Albanian, Kosovo has been recognized by more than 80 countries including the United States and 22 of the EU's 27 members.

Serbia lost control over its then-southern province in 1999 after 11 weeks of NATO bombing to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian forces in a two-year counter-insurgency war.

But Serbia's opposition to Kosovo's independence has slowed its representation in regional and international bodies and the free movement of people and goods.

Tensions have resurfaced since mid-2011 over the status of a small slice of northern Kosovo abutting Serbia and populated mainly by Serbs who reject the 2008 secession and continue to effectively live as part of Serbia.

Serbs there have been blocking roads for months, clashing several times with NATO, after Kosovo's government tried to take control of that slice of the northern border but was repelled.

(Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)