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Serbian mass rally tainted with violent attack on U.S. embassy
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13:16, February 22, 2008

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· An Eye on Kosovo
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Mass rally held in the Serbian capital Thursday in protest against Kosovo independence was tainted with a violent attack on the U.S. embassy, the local B92 news network reported.

A group of rioters stormed the U.S. embassy as the rallied people moved from the Parliament building to St. Sava Church for prayers.

Rioters broke into the U.S. embassy and set fire inside. They damaged the sentry boxes outside, smashed doors and windows, and ripped off the American flag from a pole outside.

Thick smokes were seen billowing from the embassy compound. Riot police dispersed the crowds by firing tear gas and driving armored jeeps down the street.

Some 96 people were injured in the incident, including 32 policemen, and an unidentified charred body was found after the embassy fire.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters that he was "outraged" by the mob attack and the U.S. government has urged the Serbian government to help protect its embassy.

On the same day, rioters also attacked the nearby Croatian embassy. A McDonald restaurant and several shops were looted. Broken glass, toppled dustbins and containers scattered on the ground.

Serbian President Boris Tadic has appealed to the public to stop violent protests, which were running rampant in the wake of Sunday's self-proclaimed independence by Kosovo.

On Sunday, protesters attacked the U.S. and Slovenian embassies in Belgrade, inflicting property destructions of the two embassies.

Several hundred former Serbian army reservists on Thursday attacked the Kosovo police with stones and burning tires at the Merdare crossing on Kosovo and Serbia border in protest of the independence of Kosovo.

Serb protesters within Kosovo destroyed two UN customs checkpoints and several vehicles in the border area.

The Thursday mass rally before the Parliament building gathered hundreds of thousands of people from all over Serbia.

Against the background of a huge Serbia national flag and a banner with the slogan of the rally "Kosovo is Serbia," Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said "Kosovo belongs to Serbia; Kosovo belongs to the Serb nation."

"There is no force, no threat, no punishment severe and horrible enough to make any Serb, anywhere, ever say otherwise butKosovo is Serbia!" Kostunica told the rally.

"No one will ever win a mandate from the Serbian people to accept such an ignoble trade-off. Never, and no one!" he said, stressing that "Serbia will seek its place in the family of nations under the same conditions guaranteed to other countries."

He reiterated that "Serbia has annulled and will continue to annul each act of the illegal and false state on its territory."

Leader of the largest opposition party in the Parliament Tomislav Nikolic, prime minister of the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik, leaders of Montenegrin Serb parties and celebrities from all walks of life also addressed the rally.

Kosovo, the breakaway province of Serbia, has been under the UN administration since 1999.

Source: Xinhua

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