Man disarmed in Serb president's office building

Serbian police disarmed a man inside the president's headquarters, where for about five hours Thursday he threatened to blow himself up unless his court case was settled, AP reported.

President Boris Tadic's office announced the resolution of the standoff, but details were not available. His office said he had entered the building after the incident began, but it did not give his reason for going in while SWAT teams dealt with the situation.

A black police van with its windows blacked out was later seen driving away from the presidency building, but it was not known if it carried the attacker.

In a statement, Tadic praised the security services' handling of the crisis. He said they "did a great job so that the problem with the bomber was resolved peacefully and without casualties."

Hours earlier in the same building, Tadic played host to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at a formal dinner Wednesday evening, part of a visit that nationalists opposed. The United States recognized Kosovo's declared independence from Serbia last year, a change Serbia has vowed never to accept.

The armed man, identified by one official as bankrupt businessman Dragan Maric, had burst into a small lobby at a side entrance of the downtown building and was surrounded by shielded policemen pointing guns at him while negotiators tried to persuade him to surrender, Belgrade's independent B-92 radio said.

A government official said Maric, 52, had announced his plan in an e-mail, saying he would blow himself up if a court did not rule in his favor in an unspecified case by 4 p.m. (1400 GMT, 10:00 a.m. EDT) Thursday. The official refused to be named because she was not entitled to discuss the incident.

After the deadline passed, there was no sound from the building, which is in a park across from the parliament building. Tadic's office said he later extended the deadline "indefinitely."

A court spokeswoman said no case connected to Maric was being tried but that he had recently made death threats against court officials.

Police stopped all traffic in the busy downtown area during the standoff.

Security people in the lobby had taken away one grenade from the man, but he had continued to hold a second grenade with its pin removed, said Jasmina Stojanov, Tadic's press office spokeswoman.

Stojanov could not say what the man's motive was.

Maric, once a wealthy businessman, has staged several public hunger strikes since his company went bankrupt in the early 2000s. In 2004, he threatened to burn himself alive. He also offered his kidney for sale that year to get money for living.

"Even death is better than tyranny," the man said in the e-mail, according to the unidentified official, who refused to be named because she was not entitled to discuss the incident.

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