Serbia calls for calm protests, cuts diplomatic ties

Other News Materials 19 February 2008 04:49 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The Serbian government fought on the diplomatic front against the secession of Kosovo while calling for protesters at home to keep calm and avoid violence.

Serbia on Monday ordered its ambassadors to Washington, London, Paris and Ankara to return to Belgrade for consultations in retaliation for those countries recognizing Kosovo, the foreign ministry in Belgrade said Monday evening.

Speaking to the Serbian assembly, which convened to "annul" Kosovo's declaration of independence, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica accused the United States of showing the world a "bullying policy of force" by supporting the secession of Serbia's province.

At the UN Security Council in New York, Serbian President Boris Tadic denounced Kosovo's claim of sovereignty on Sunday as illegal and charged that his country has been punished for the UN's failure to stop Kosovo's declaration.

Serbia on Monday said it has moved to criminally indict top Kosovo leaders for proclaiming independence, including Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, President Fatmir Sejdiu and assembly speaker Jakup Krasniqi.

Following a day of protest riots in Belgrade outside the embassies of the United States and Slovenia, Kostunica appealed to violent demonstrators to stop ransacking Western embassies and businesses.

Kostunica urged a peaceful protest march in Belgrade on Thursday that has been called by the three largest parties in Serbia - the extreme nationalist Serbian radical Party in opposition, Tadic's Democratic Party and Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia.

A heavy police presence was visible in downtown Belgrade at the time the parliament convened on Monday, and in contrast to Sunday, when police were very reserved, officers on Monday were seen using batons on hooligans they chased down for an arrest.

Slovenia is in the cross-hairs of Serbian fury as president of the European Union, where it has urged an EU-wide recognition of Kosovo's internationally-supervised independence, a move that several EU countries are still not ready to make.

In addition, the EU plans to send a law-enforcing mission to Kosovo to help it along its first sovereign steps - a move which has enraged Belgrade and spurred Kostunica into freezing Serbia's EU membership effort.

A false bomb alarm forced an evacuation of the Slovenian Mercator mega-store, and protestors ransacked the Slovenian mission in Belgrade, eliciting a protest from Ljubljana.

"We condemn the conduct which led to damages in the Slovenian embassy and the defacing of Slovenian and EU symbols," Slovenia's President Danilo Turk said in Ljubljana. He said Slovenia was expecting compensation from Serbia.

More than 50 people, more than half of them police, were injured in riots that broke out Sunday in Belgrade following the declaration in Kosovo. The US embassy was also stoned, and McDonald's restaurants were targetted. Local stores were pillaged for beer and cigarettes.

Violence mostly happened around roaming groups of hooligan football fans, while the largest group of the day of several thousand students mostly marched peacefully, though several stones were thrown at the Turkish embassy as the crowd passed it.

It was also tense in the largest Serb enclave in Kosovo, in northern Mitrovica, where more than 10,000 Serbs marched to the bridge leading to the southern, Albanian section of the town.

There the crowd turned around and dispersed when they faced a massive cordon of NATO-led peacekeepers.

Mitrovica, the gateway to the enclave north of the bridge, is the most dangerous neuralgic point in Kosovo, which elsewhere is thoroughly dominated by the 90-per-cent Albanian majority.

However, a blast - the fourth in the 24 hours since Kosovo said it was breaking off from Serbia - rocked the town a few hours later. As in previous three bombing incidents, no injuries were reported.

In the latest attack, a bomb thrown into the courtyard of the police station and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe building damaged four cars, the Kosovo police spokesman, Besi Hoti, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in Pristina.