The top U.S. intelligence official says Serbia's government ordered police not to interfere with rioters who attacked the Belgrade embassies of western countries, including the United States, for their recognition of Kosovo's independence. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill, where Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell made his comments Wednesday.
Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Serbia's government directed police not to intervene in the violent demonstrations in Belgrade last week.
"We have good information that when the U.S. Embassy and the British Embassy and others were attacked, a decision was taken by the government of Serbia to pull the police back and allow them to be attacked, burn the embassy and conduct the violence," said Michael McConnell.
The U.S. embassy in Belgrade reopened Wednesday, nearly a week after demonstrators set fire to the consular section to protest U.S. backing for Kosovo independence, which many Serbs consider their country's historic heartland. However, an embassy statement said the consular section would remain closed for an indeterminate amount of time.
McConnell said he predicts some level of violence to continue in Serbia, and he questioned how willing the government in Belgrade will be to control any future unrest.
"The forces that are there now can contain a low-level of violence," he said. "If it is extended, it would probably be beyond their control. So the question is how determined is the leadership in Serbia and will they incite violence at a much higher level than we have observed to date?"
At the same hearing, Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lieutenant General Michael Maples, expressed concern about the potential for violence in Kosovo's Serb stronghold of north Mitrovica, although he said NATO peacekeepers there have been able to provide a safe and secure environment so far.