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21 Feb, 2008 20:29

Protesters storm U.S. embassy in Belgrade

Order seems to have been restored in the centre of Belgrade and traffic is back on the streets. Police used tear gas to disperse crowds of rioters who had been attacking embassies in Belgrade.

According to various reports a total of up to 75 people have been injured during street protests. Fifteen of them are reported to be policemen.

A burned body has been found in the U.S. embassy in the Serbian capital Belgrade after it was set on fire during violent protests over Kosovo's independence.

It's thought to be that of a protester, as all U.S. diplomatic staff have been accounted for.

The United States has expressed outrage at the attack on it's embassy in the Serbian capital and says it will ask the U.N to condemn it.

The U.S was one of the first countries to recognise Kosovo as a sovereign state, after it declared unilateral independence on Sunday.

Police were not protecting the buildings and are now trying to regain control of the rioters. More than 70 people have been injured.

At least 150,000 Serbs gathered in the capital Belgrade for a massive demonstration in protest against Kosovan independence.

The motto of the demonstration in Belgrade, which is partly government-sponsored, is “Kosovo is Serbia”.

All railway transportation was free on Thursday, with the authorities providing more than 500 buses to bring people in from all over the country.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has addressed the people. In his speech he highlighted the support from Russia and other countries.

“In this fight we are not alone. The Serbian people will not forget the friendship and strong support that President Putin has given Serbia. We will not forget the support we got from other countries that are against breaking the existing international order,” he said.

Several hundred Serb students have also been demonstrating in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They threw stones at police which blocked the crowd from reaching the U.S. consulate. The protesters burnt the American and EU flags. Police have had to use tear gas to disperse crowds.

Earlier, violence broke out on the Kosovo-Serbia border, where protesters hurled stones at NATO peacekeepers.

To get analysts’ comments on the situation, please follow the link.

World split over Kosovo

Kosovo announced its independence last Sunday. The region had been under the jurisdiction of UN Security Council after the war in the 1990s.  

It had been threatening to announce independence unilaterally since then.  

As the UN Security council had been unsuccessfully trying to find solution for the Kosovo problem, the world appeared split over how to treat the new self-proclaimed status of the province.  

Russia strongly opposes the unilateral ideclaration of independence, along with China and other countries. Among these are Spain and Georgia, who have problems of their own with regard to potential breakaway regions within their countries. The fear is that Kosovo will set a dangerous precedent.

In an interview to Russia Today, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia will be doing everything in “its capacity to preserve the international law.”

He also added that the situation with Kosovo didn’t help Russia’s relations with the EU and the U.S., “with whom we wanted to promote real partnership to equitably resolve problems.”

“Kosovo was not among the most topical problems and it was not such a hotbed as Palestine, or other places in the Middle East which required utmost attention. Unfortunately, by concentrating on an absolutely illegitimate unilateral course for Kosovo, this important amount of attention was diverted from much more needed action in other parts of the globe,” Lavrov said.