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23 Feb, 2008 00:20

Serbs divided over Belgrade riots

In Belgrade Serbian President Boris Tadic has called an emergency meeting of the country's Council for National Security saying there was no excuse for Thursday's violence. It resulted in one dead, almost 200 injured and a lot of property damaged. Meanwhi

The sound and the fury at its wildest is what Belgrade saw last night.

In the aftermath of an overnight attack the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade has recalled non-essential personnel, while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has accused Serbia of ducking its duty to protect foreign diplomats.

McDonald’s was damaged almost as badly as the embassy, since many in Belgrade see it as the face of America’s influence on the world.

Other foreign presences in the Serbian capital also got a fare share of flames. For example, an ATM of French bank Societe Generale.

The younger generation believes emotions should not be restrained.

“This is not vandalism, especially after the Americans bombarded us in 1999,” some of them say.

Older people, meanwhile, are not that certain.

“What has happened is not nice. Why damage our own city? We can protest saying we won’t give Kosovo away but peacefully. Tearing everything down only makes us look bad all over the world,” said a Belgrade citizen.  

“I support the protests, but that vandalism of the youth is bad.  People think the whole of Serbia is like that,” another one added.

President Boris Tadic condemned the violence, saying there was no justification for it, and called a session of the Council for National Security.
In the meantime, several hundred students from Belgrade, Nis and Kragujevac headed to Kosovo to support their compatriots there, who hold peaceful rallies at 12.44 each day – to show that Kosovo’s secession violates UN Resolution 1244.

Their buses were not allowed to enter Kosovo, but the students were determined to stay at the border until they were let through.

Such is the strength of feeling across Serbia about the loss of the region the unrest is likely to continue.