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Charges filed against 80 people over attacks on US and other embassies in Belgrade

Charges filed against 80 people over attacks on US and other embassies in Belgrade

Serbia's police on Friday filed criminal charges against 80 people for their alleged participation in attacks on the U.S. and other embassies in Belgrade.
Nationalist demonstrators angry with America's recognition of an independent Kosovo broke into the U.S. compound last week and set an empty office on fire. One protester died. The embassy later evacuated family members and some staff from Serbia for security reasons.
The rioters also targeted the embassies of Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Belgium, Germany and Bosnia.
The charges, which carry maximum sentences of between four and six years in jail, included hooliganism, theft and resisting arrest.
European Union nations delivered a diplomatic protest Friday to Serbia's Foreign Ministry, saying that "volatile rhetoric" by some Serbian politicians had served to incite the rioters.
Also on Friday, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Belgrade police had intervened "in a proper and timely manner" to break up the riots in which about 100 shops and restaurants throughout the downtown area were also attacked and looted.
He rejected opposition suggestions that government officials had ordered the riot police not to intervene to stop the violence.
Kostunica spent part of the morning handing out "Kosovo is Serbia" badges to supporters on Knez Mihajlova street, a pedestrian zone where much of the looting had taken place.
Serbia _ which considers Kosovo its sacred heartland _ rejects Kosovo's declaration of independence, which has been followed by a wave of violent protests in Serbia and Kosovo that raised fears of a wider conflict.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic on Friday lodged a formal complaint with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon against the formation of the International Steering Group for Kosovo, whose mission will be to help guide the new nation's democratic development and promote good governance, multi-ethnicity and the rule of law.
The 15-nation group, which met Thursday in Vienna, Austria, appointed Pieter Feith, the European Union's representative in Kosovo, as the international civilian representative for Kosovo.
"The creation of this group is illegal because it was done without the approval of the U.N. Security Council," Jeremic said in his letter to the U.N. head.
He said it was an attempt to circumvent U.N. Resolution 1244, which in 1999 formally recognized Serbia's sovereignty while simultaneously placing Kosovo under a U.N. interim administration backed up by NATO-led forces.
Russia, too, has dismissed the EU's planned mission in Kosovo as "illegal." Moscow insists that Resolution 1244 remains in force and the U.N. mission there cannot be replaced by the 1,800-strong EU team.


Updated : 2021-07-26 09:21 GMT+08:00