09 July 2007

More Than 50 Injured During Demonstration In Kosovo

DPA, 08:23 PM, February 10th 2007


More than 50 people, including police, have been injured Saturday during a demonstration in Kosovo's capital of Pristina, some of them critically, sources at the hospital said.


Kosovan police had used tear gas and rubber bullets in central Pristina to disperse protests against the UN-backed plan envisaging a gradual move to independence for the breakaway Serbian province, demanding instead an immediate proclamation of sovereignty.


Organizers of the protest, the radically pro-independence Vetevendosje (Self-determination) movement, want immediate secession from Belgrade, which has anyway had no say in the governing of Kosovo since the UN took over following a NATO intervention in 1999.


At leat 15 people were arrested at the scene of the protest in front of the parliament building, while others, apparently injured or overcome by tear gas, had to be carried away by ambulances.


Police reacted the moment the crowd broke through barricades erected to keep the demonstrations beyond stone-throwing distance of the assembly and government buildings in Mother Teresa Boulevard.


Spent tear-gas canisters and rubber-bullet cartridges littered the streets. At least 500 police in riot gear with water cannons were visible in front of the assembly.


Vetevendosje protested at the UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan for Kosovo, which, once implemented, would effectively end Belgrade's formal sovereignty over the province.


The plan was flatly rejected by Belgrade and welcomed by leaders of the ethnic Albanians, the vast majority in Kosovo.


Vetevendosje, however, saw the path drawn by Ahtisaari as too indirect and was enraged by additional talks scheduled between Pristina and Belgrade.


Ahtisaari, though openly sceptical that the two sides could agree on anything, called for three more rounds of talks in Vienna between February 21 and March 9, after which he said he would submit his plan to the UN Security Council for approval.


Vetvendosje's protests in the past have often ended in violence, most recently last November.


The movement had also targeted the UN administration in its "actions," such as paint-bombing and stoning buildings and vehicles, saying it was blocking Kosovo's progress to independence.


President Fatmir Sejdiu on Friday evening warned Vetevendosje that they "have the right to demonstrate, but not to destabilize Kosovo."