February 22, 2008
KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Kosovoâ€”Serbs protested against Kosovo’s independence for a fifth straight day Friday, attacking U.N. police guarding a key bridge in the province’s north with stones, glass bottles and firecrackers.
The U.S. and the European Union demanded that the Serbian government protect foreign embassies and their staff in the capital Belgrade a day after protesters set fire to the U.S. compound there. The Serb protesters were venting their anger over U.S. recognition of Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
“We are demanding from the Serbian government that they condemn the violence that took place yesterday and guarantee that it will not be repeated,” Ambassador Cameron Munter said in an interview. The State Department ordered nonessential diplomats and families of all American personnel at the embassy to leave Serbia.
Serbian President Boris Tadic called an emergency meeting of the national security council and said the rioting that engulfed the capital must “never happen again.”
“I most sharply condemn the violence, looting and arson,” Tadic said in a statement. “There is no excuse for the violence. Nobody can justify what happened yesterday.”
Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia on Sunday. The province, which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, has not been under Serbia’s control since 1999, when NATO launched airstrikes to halt a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. A U.N. mission has governed Kosovo since.