Mon, Feb 12, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Albanians protest UN Kosovo plan

AP , PRISTINA

Kosovo police officers set up a barricade during a demonstration in Pristina, on Saturday. Kosovan police used tear gas and rubber bullets in central Pristina on Saturday to disperse protests against the UN-backed plan envisaging a gradual move to independence, demanding instead an immediate proclamation of sovereignty.

PHOTO:EPA

Riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at thousands of ethnic Albanians who demonstrated in Pristina on Saturday against a UN proposal for Kosovo they said does not go far enough in granting the province independence.

Some 70 protesters requested medical assistance, mainly from the effects of tear gas, while eight were injured, four seriously, police spokesman Veton Elshani said.

Police said 15 protesters were arrested and eight officers were hurt.

Reporters at the scene said they saw at least two injured men covered in blood being carried away.

UN and Kosovo police broke up the protest after demonstrators tried to charge a security cordon and head toward a government building throwing stones and sticks at the officers. An estimated 3,000 people -- many carrying banners reading ``No negotiation, Self-determination'' -- took part in the rally on a main street in Kosovo's capital.

A UN car was overturned and its windows shattered as police and groups of protesters continued clashes in side streets and back alleys before they dispersed.

By late on Saturday, police said streets had been reopened and the city was returning to normal.

Chief UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveiled his proposal for Kosovo's future status last week.

The plan did not explicitly call for Kosovo's independence from Serbia, but spelled out conditions for self-rule -- including a flag, anthem, army and constitution and the right to apply for membership in international organizations.

Kosovo's Serb minority would have a high degree of control over their own affairs.

"We're demonstrating against Ahtisaari's package, which does not reflect the will of the people of Kosovo, but only the privileges of one minority, the Serb minority, which is being manipulated by Serbia," said Albin Kurti, the leader of the protest group.

Protesters marched and stood still for an hour before clashing with police units, which deployed at the government building and sealed off the UN mission headquarters in the province.

After the protest ended, police arrested Kurti in the group's offices, said Glauk Konjufca, an activist. Police confirmed the arrest.

The plan, which needs approval from UN Security Council to come into force, was endorsed by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders but rejected by Serbian officials in Belgrade who refuse to give up the province, considered Serbia's historic heartland.

On Saturday, protesters said the plan did not reflect the will of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, which they said want independence, not just an internationally supervised statehood.

Protest organizers say the self-rule envisioned for Kosovo's Serb minority could lead to the creation of a separate Serb entity within Kosovo.

Activists also rejected parts of the plan that call for the establishment of a new international mission that would have powers to annul decisions or laws that run against the plan itself.

Talks between the two sides are to resume on Feb. 21.

The group has held many protests against the UN administration in the province and opposed yearlong talks with Serbia over Kosovo's future.

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