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Last Updated: Friday, 22 February 2008, 16:59 GMT
US to evacuate staff from Serbia
Police guard US embassy, Belgrade, 22 Feb
The US hopes to reopen the Belgrade embassy on Tuesday
The US embassy in Serbia has ordered the temporary evacuation of non-essential staff after protesters attacked the building in Belgrade.

About 1,000 protesters set fire to the embassy on Thursday in anger at Kosovo's declaration of independence, which the US and others recognised.

The UK, German, Croatian, Belgian and Turkish embassies were also attacked.

Both the Serbian president and PM have condemned the violence, which left one dead and more than 100 injured.

US embassy spokeswoman Rian Harris told AFP news agency: "Dependents are being temporarily ordered to depart Belgrade. We do not have confidence that Serbian authorities can provide security for our staff members."

What we saw were terrible things - it was a reaction against a democratic world
Hashim Thaci, Kosovo PM

Another spokesperson told Reuters news agency the ambassador, Cameron Munter, and core staff would remain.

The evacuation will be reassessed in seven to 10 days. Ms Harris said the embassy would reopen on Tuesday after repairs.

The US earlier lodged an official protest over the attack.

Fears remain of further violence in the wake of the declaration of secession from Serbia by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders last Sunday.

Belgrade map showing location of embassies

Hundreds of Serbs protested on Friday in the ethnically-divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica, but apart from some scuffles and stone-throwing the rally passed off largely peacefully.

The European Union called on Serbia to protect embassies in Belgrade.

The UN Security Council condemned the attacks and the US described those responsible as "thugs".

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said on Friday the embassy attacks reminded him of the era of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr Thaci said: "What we saw were terrible things. It was a reaction against a democratic world."

About 1,000 protesters smashed their way into the US embassy, throwing flares through a window.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I think the people of Kosovo made the wrong choice. They become one of the smallest and poorest countries in Europe
Paolo, Italy

There were no police protecting the embassy, but riot police later intervened, firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Fires raged for half an hour, and when firemen finally managed to get inside the building they found a charred body, which has not been identified. Reports suggest the body may be that of one of the intruders.

'No excuse'

Serbian President Boris Tadic called an emergency meeting of Serbia's National Security Council on Friday.

KOSOVO PROFILE
Population about two million
Majority ethnic Albanian; 10% Serb
Under UN control since Nato drove out Serb forces in 1999
2,000-strong EU staff to take over from UN after independence
Recognised by US, UK, Germany, Italy and France
Not recognised by Russia, Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus
Nato to stay to provide security

He said: "I most sharply condemn the violence, looting and arson. There is no excuse for the violence."

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica had earlier also condemned the attack.

Russia, Serbia's key ally, said it also regretted the actions.

But foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin added: "Those forces that supported Kosovo's proclamation of independence should have been aware of the consequences of such a step."

US assistant secretary of state for political affairs, Nicholas Burns, criticised Moscow's role: "They're not in Kosovo, they're not doing anything to help the Kosovars. So they're kind of on the sidelines contributing mostly unhelpfully."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said continued violence would harm efforts to improve ties.

He said "things will have to calm down" before the EU continued talks on a preliminary deal on EU-Serbia links.

Mitrovica protest 22 Feb
A protest in Mitrovica on Friday passed off largely peacefully

Kosovo's declaration of independence has split the international community, with many Western nations recognising the move, while China and Russia were among those opposed.

Most Serbs regard Kosovo as their religious and cultural heartland and believe the independence declaration violates international law.

Mr Kostunica has recalled Serbia's ambassador to the US over the affair.

In the coming weeks, a 2,000-strong EU mission will be deployed to help Kosovo develop its police force and judiciary.


Do you live in Belgrade or Mitrovica? Did you witness the protests or the violence at the embassies in Belgrade? Are you an American living in the Serbian capital? Tell us what is happening where you are by filling in the form below.

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Your comments

The peaceful demonstration of around 200,000 Serbs should not be overlooked in favour of the isolated actions of a few hundred desperate lager louts and thugs. Under similar circumstances this would have happened in many other places in the world. Yesterday's dignified and solemn protest was a first class funeral for Kosovo, supported by a rare unanimous Serbian politic.
J. de Ryckman de Betz, Belgrade, Serbia

I am a Serb from Belgrade and I was in the streets last night. It was painful to watch hoards of hooligans destroying our beautiful European city. They were demolishing everything: cars, shops, embassies and even street lights. The police did not stop them in time, it is madness!
Milosh Gvozdenovic, Belgrade-Serbia

I wanted to go to the protest but at the last minute I gave up because I knew that something like this was going to happen. Most Serbs were protesting peacefully but there is always a small group of hooligans who make trouble! I feel sorry for the city and the damaged embassies, what a shame.
Jovana S., Belgrade, Serbia

The formal protest was fine. It was nice to see thousands of people meeting to support Kosovo and its people. What happened later was disappointing. Attacking embassies was extremely stupid but I can understand the anger. Try to imagine this scene: in the street policemen were beating up hooligans while five metres away people were sitting in cafes, listening to music and drinking coffee. Serbian people cannot be surprised by anything anymore - everything is normal!
Darjan Kontrec, Belgrade, Serbia

I was at the demonstrations with my family to say that we do not agree with the injustice of ripping our country apart. No-one has the right to do this. Not even the Albanians who came to live here centuries ago.
Milica, Belgrade, Serbia

It's hard to be Serbian today, and even harder to be from Belgrade. What we saw yesterday on the streets of Belgrade and other Serbian cities is what we are: an angry mob that doesn't care for anything. My father's store was attacked by a mob. He has a watch repair shop and there wasn't anything to steal but a rock was thrown through the window. The collective madness of the 90's is back. It is other people's fault also, but the biggest fault is our own.
Djordje Kozurik, Belgrade, Serbia

Maybe it is good that the burning of the US embassy happened because if it didn't happen last night it would have erupted later with much more violence. I understand my countrymen, both those who burned the embassy and those who went to the religious meeting. We are angry, but it is important for citizens of the USA and other western countries to understand that we are not angry at them.
Milos Markovic, Belgrade, Serbia

Walking around town today is a bit weird - it feels as if nothing has happened. Some stores are closed but life goes on and people are buying concert tickets to see the likes of Kiss and Lenny Kravitz. This hopefully means the Serbs have vented their anger at the United States and are now getting on with their lives.
DJ, Belgrade

What is burning of few foreign embassies compared to the tearing apart our country? Kosovo was always part of our state and always will be. It is the heart of Serbia!
Ivana Bulatovi, Belgrade, Serbia

One more of those "historical" moments, which ends in looting, burning and smashing. As a Serb I have really had enough. Today I'm ashamed, for something I didn't do, for something somebody did in my name. For the first time I wish to say: enough is enough.
Sladjana, Belgrade, Serbia

I didn't go to the rallies yesterday, not because I think what's happening in Kosovo is fair, but because I knew what was going to happen and I most definitely didn't want to be part of it. My country is filled with paranoia, I'm afraid that we are lost for good.
Ljiljana, Belgrade, Serbia



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Protests on the streets of Kosovo and Belgrade



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