(AFP) – Feb 26, 2008
BELGRADE, Feb 26, 2008 (AFP) — Serbia's top security body met Tuesday for more than five hours to probe why police failed to stop angry mobs opposed to Kosovo's Western-backed independence from torching the US embassy last week.
The gathering of the National Security Council was called by pro-Western President Boris Tadic after masked youths went on the rampage on Thursday night during an anti-Kosovo independence demonstration.
There was no official statement but Belgrade B92 television station reported that it "was decided that all further diplomatic activities (by Serbia) must cause no long-term consequences, neither political nor economic, for Serbia."
"All (security) services must prevent any violence" of the kind that erupted in Belgrade last week, the television said, without naming a source for its report.
The officials insisted "all those taking part in the violence must be identified with necessary justice measures taken" against them, it added.
The council brings together the president, prime minister, interior and defence ministers and the army's chief-of-staff. It also includes the chiefs of the police and military intelligence agencies.
One person, a young Serb who fled Kosovo after its 1998-1999 war, was killed in the US embassy blaze and 130 people including dozens of police officers were injured in other violence.
Police also failed to prevent attacks on several other embassies, including those of European Union members Belgium, Britain and Germany, as well as widespread rioting and looting.
The violence erupted during the peaceful "Kosovo is Serbia" protest of more than 150,000 in Belgrade, which came after Kosovo's ethnic Albanian-majority parliament unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17.
Belgrade and most Serbs vehemently oppose independence for the tiny, mountainous territory of some two million people, which they consider the cradle of their culture and religion.
As well as the US, most EU member states have either formally recognised Kosovo or declared their intention to do so, the latest being Poland.
Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia and Spain remain opposed, while Greece has also expressed doubts.
The day after the violence, Tadic said he had "demanded a report from all authorised institutions about yesterday's destruction" and condemned the unrest "in the strongest terms."
And Serbian conservative nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica expressed regret about the unrest, which he warned would harm the Balkan country's efforts to keep Kosovo.
"Unfortunately, a great misfortune happened ... one human life was lost. Violence and destruction are directly damaging our fight to preserve our state and national interests," said Kostunica after the rally.
Belgrade argues Kosovo's secession violates UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted at the end of NATO's bombing campaign, which put the disputed territory under United Nations rule while retaining Serbian sovereignty.
But Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci warned that "not an inch" of Kosovo could be jeopardized.
"We will never allow Kosovo's territorial integrity, which has been internationally recognized, to be jeopardized," Thaci said.
Pristina authorities have been in "permanent touch" and cooperate with UN mission and NATO-led peacekeepers (KFOR) deployed in Kosovo to prevent incidents on its territory, Thaci added.
"Not an inch of Kosovo's territory must be touched by anyone," Thaci said.
Kosovo's independence declaration has chilled relations between Serbia and Russia on one side and the United States and leading European powers on the other.
During a visit to Belgrade on Monday, Russia's likely next president, Dmitry Medvedev, vowed to stick by Serbia in its fight against Kosovo's independence.
Washington evacuated non-essential staff from Belgrade on Friday. The embassy remains closed, but staff were scheduled to return to the Serbian capital and resume work on Wednesday, Beta news agency said.
Meanwhile in the northern city of Novi Sad, several thousand people including family, friends and nationalist politicians attended the funeral of Zoran Vujovic, whose charred remains were found in the US embassy of Belgrade on Thursday.
Earlier on Tuesday, a Belgrade court said the cause of Vujovic's death was yet to be established.
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