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Fresh violence in Kosovo Serb protests

  • Story Highlights
  • Serb protesters in Kosovo hurl bottles, stones, firecrackers at U.N. police
  • U.S. diplomat calls attack by protesters on embassy in Belgrade "reprehensible"
  • Russia doesn't rule out force over Kosovo, ambassador to NATO warns
  • Russian Foreign Ministry says Kosovo's independence will have a "negative impact"
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(CNN) -- Kosovo's breakaway from Serbia provoked fresh unrest Friday as U.N. police were attacked by ethnic Serb demonstrators in northern Kosovo a day after angry demonstrations in the Serbian capital Belgrade left one person dead.


Serbs throw a firecracker towards police guarding a bridge in the ethnically divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica.

The Associated Press said protesters among a crowd of 5,000 trying to cross a key bridge in the divided city of Mitrovica, hurled empty bottles and stones at the police. It was initially thought that the police retaliated with canisters of tear gas but AP later said this was actually firecrackers fired by protesters.

The demonstrators were waving Serbian flags and chanting "Kosovo is ours!" on what was the fifth day of protests since Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia on Sunday.

The latest incident follows violent outbreaks in Belgrade which culminated in an attack on the U.S. Embassy that left one person dead and dozens injured, earning Serbia a stern rebuke from a senior U.S. diplomat on Friday.

Speaking to CNN, Undersecretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said Serbia had a "fundamental responsibility" to protect U.S. diplomats and citizens, adding that Washington would hold Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and his government "personally responsible" for assaults on U.S. interests.

"What happened yesterday in Belgrade was absolutely reprehensible," said Burns. "This kind of thing should not happen in a civilized country."

Speaking on Thursday, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, said: "Those scenes that we saw are regrettable. The Serbian government has repeated time and time again that any solution to the Kosovo problem -- other than a peaceful and mutually accepted compromise solution -- would lead to instability in the region. Unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears."

Serbian riot police were guarding the U.S. Embassy on Friday, one day after the charred body of a protester was found and dozens of people were reportedly injured in an attack by angry demonstrators.

Serbian TV showed someone trying to set fire to the U.S. flag at the embassy, which was closed and unstaffed when the masked protesters attacked. Riot police fired tear gas and lines of armored vehicles were deployed on the streets before the embassy perimeter was secured.

Belgrade fire officials said the body was found in an "unoccupied area" of one of the embassy buildings near the area reached by the demonstrators.

Thursday's violence was part of a much bigger, peaceful demonstration where up to 150,000 people chanted "Kosovo is Serbia," and vowed to never accept the province's independence.

Addressing the crowd, Kostunica said "Kosovo is Serbia's first name," calling Kosovo's declaration of independence illegal and vowing to do all he could to get it annulled.

The U.S. Embassy's consular section remained closed on Friday as officials were advised to stay at home amid continuing fears over anti-Western protests, according to a statement on the embassy Web site.

The Embassy warned American citizens to avoid areas of demonstration and to exercise "extreme caution."

Kosovo declared independence last Sunday and the United States was among the first countries to offer official recognition of its split from Serbia. Video Watch a discussion on the history of tense relations between Serbia and Kosovo »

Also Friday, Russia -- which has not recognized Kosovo's sovereignty -- said it has not ruled out using force to resolve the dispute over the territory if NATO forces breach the terms of their U.N. mandate.

"If the EU works out a single position or if NATO steps beyond its mandate in Kosovo, these organizations will be in conflict with the U.N., and then I think we will also begin operating under the assumption that in order to be respected, one needs to use force," Moscow's ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said, in comments carried by Russia's Interfax news agency.

A spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry warned that Kosovo's declaration would have a "negative impact."

"What happened in Belgrade yesterday is regrettable. But we would want to draw your attention to the fact that the forces that supported the unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence should have realized the effects of the move," spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told Interfax.

Russia, which has close ties with Serbia, has refused to recognize Kosovo's sovereignty, triggering a terse diplomatic standoff with the U.S. and several EU member states including the UK, France and Germany which have already recognized its independent status.

The U.S. Ambassador to NATO said Washington was "very disappointed" by Russia's position on Kosovo, The Associated Press reported.

"We've been very disappointed by Russia's reaction and we've been concerned about any efforts, whether they are Serb or from elsewhere, to incite violence at this delicate time," said Victoria Nuland.


NATO has led a 15,000-strong peacekeeping operation -- known as KFOR -- in Kosovo since 1999 under the terms of a U.N. Security Council mandate authorized following a 78-day bombing campaign by the military alliance against Serbia.

Following Kosovo's declaration of independence last weekend, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said KFOR would "respond swiftly and firmly against anyone who might resort to violence in Kosovo." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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