( AP ) - Serbian police said Monday they had detained 56 neo-Nazis who defied a ban and demonstrated to demand the contested province of Kosovo remain part of the Serbia. The arrests came after clashes broke out between the extremists and anti-fascists holding a counter demonstration.
The extremists from the Nacionalni Stroj (National Guard) group clashed Sunday with an anti-fascist counter demonstration. The neo-Nazis pressed ahead with the protest despite a ban following an outcry by Jewish and other groups. Several people were injured as the extremists hurled stones at the anti-fascists.
The organizers of the anti-fascist gathering accused police Monday of failing to protect them and the opposition criticized the government for being too soft on extremists. They demanded an explanation from the Interior Minister Dragan Jocic as to why the neo-Nazis were allowed to gather in the northern city of Novi Sad, about 30 miles north of Belgrade.
Kosovo - where ethnic Albanians represent 90 percent of its 2 million people - remains formally part of Serbia. But it has been run by the U.N. and NATO since 1999, when NATO airstrikes ended a Serbian military crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in the southern province.
Kosovo Albanian leaders have repeatedly said they are seeking nothing but complete independence. But Serbia insists the province must technically remain part of Serbia.
In the Serbian parliament, Liberal Party leader Cedomir Jovanovic demanded the resignation of the conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, and blasted government leaders for failing to show up at the anti-fascist rally.
"It was their duty to send a message" against fascism, Jovanovic said.
There was no immediate reaction from Kostunica, but a lawmaker from his conservative party, Milos Aligrudic, called in parliament Monday for the ban of the liberal groups which organized the anti-fascist demonstration. He said they were as "equally extreme" as the neo-Nazis.
The speaker called a recess to the parliamentary session because of angry verbal exchanges between the liberals and Kostunica's supporters.
Last month, the World Jewish Congress said that the planned rally was a "matter of great concern" for the organization. The Simon Wiesenthal Center had said that the march was to mark the birthday of SS chief Heinrich Himmler and welcomed the decision to ban it.
The right-wing nationalists had called for the demonstration against the secession of Kosovo where majority ethnic Albanians want independence from Serbia.
Novi Sad, which was the scene of a 1942 massacre of about 800 Jews and 400 Serbs by Nazi occupiers during World War II, is currently run by a right-wing mayor with nationalist policies.