(AFP) – Feb 7, 2008
BELGRADE (AFP) — Some 100 Serbian ultra-nationalists disrupted Thursday a Kosovo Albanian art exhibition in Belgrade, forcing organisers to cancel the event that was intended to bring the two ethnic groups closer.
The exhibition was called off soon after it opened when some 100 riot police prevented the extremists from breaking into the gallery, said an AFP photographer at the scene.
One of the protesters did, however, manage managed to reach the exhibition and tear up a placard of late Kosovo Albanian guerrilla leader Adem Jashari depicted as a pop icon along with late US rock legend Elvis Presley.
Jashari -- killed by Serb forces at the beginning of the 1998-1999 conflict in Kosovo -- is regarded by ethnic Albanians as a martyr for independence.
A Kosovo Serb painter, Zoran Calija, protested the opening of the exhibition, insulting the artists and organizers and threatening them with a stone, Tanjug news agency reported.
Acting on police advice, the organisers decided to cancel the exhibition of artwork by 11 young ethnic Albanians from the Kosovo capital Pristina, Ljubica Beljanski Ristic told the news agency.
The protestors, mostly from the ultra-nationalist youth group Obraz, chanted "Go back to Kosovo" and "Let's go to Kosovo," as well as the name of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, who has been indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague but remains at large.
They carried a poster of Milorad "Legija" Ulemek, a former commander of a notorious Serbian special police unit that fought ethnic Albanian rebels during the Kosovo conflict.
The controversial exhibition was previously held in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad, triggering angry reactions, but no incidents, Tanjug said.
The exhibition was opened amid a severe political crisis in Serbia linked to the imminent independence of its disputed province of Kosovo.
Leaders of the southern province's 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority plan to make a declaration of independence within the coming days or weeks.
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