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Serbian President Calls for End to Violence


Serbian President Boris Tadic has called for an end to violence after rioters opposed to Kosovo's declaration of independence ransacked U.S. and other embassies in Belgrade, killing one person. The call comes amid new clashes across the border in Kosovo and mounting European Union pressure on Serbia to rein in violent protestors. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.

President Boris Tadic said Friday he would call an emergency meeting of Serbia's top security body, the National Security Council, to deal with mounting tensions and violence following Kosovo's declaration of independence.

In a televised appeal, he urged Serbs to protest in a peaceful way, after Thursday's attack by protesters on the U.S. and other embassies of countries that recognized Kosovo's break from Serbia. He said the attacks on embassies do not contribute to Serbia's integrity or dignity or its claim that Kosovo belongs to Serbia.

President Tadic, who is regarded as pro-Western, made his appeal after the European Union and the United States condemned the embassy attacks.

In addition, the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana warned that Belgrade's failure to rein in violent protesters could undermine Serbia's prospects for joining the EU and the signing of a key Stabilization and Association Agreement, or SAA, with Europe.

"These acts of violence lead nowhere. They cannot help anybody," he said. "Things will have to calm down before we can recuperate the climate that will allow any contact to move on the SAA."

Serbian authorities were quick to point out that police detained some 200 people in connection with Thursday's violence that reportedly left one person dead and at least 130 injured.

Across the border, in Kosovo, there were new clashes on Friday.

Several thousand Serb demonstrators opposing Kosovo's independence, attempted to march over a bridge separating the Serb and ethnic Albanian sides of Kosovo's ethnically divided city of Mitrovica. Several protesters hurled firecrackers and flares at United Nations police, who tried to keep the protesters away from the bridge.

Serbs waved Serbian flags and chanted "Kosovo is ours."

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has expressed concern about the clashes. Mr. Thaci, recalling the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, asked Serbs to move forward.

"My message to Serbs in Serbia is to look forward and not to work with the mentality of the past, with the mentality of Milosevic-time," he said. "And the pictures of yesterday in Belgrade were pictures of Milosevic's time. They are not a reaction against the people of Kosovo or against Kosovo. It was a reaction against a democratic world."

Belgrade says although it condemns violence, it will continue a diplomatic campaign against the loss of Kosovo, including withdrawing ambassadors from countries that recognize the independence of the Albanian majority province.

Serbs comprise less than 10 percent of Kosovo's two million population.

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