Kosovo opposition disrupts parliament with tear gas

AP News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2015 12:25 PM
Kosovo opposition disrupts parliament with tear gas

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Opposition lawmakers in Kosovo disrupted parliament's session on Thursday, using tear gas and whistles to protest the government's recent EU-sponsored deal with Serbia giving the country's Serb-majority areas greater powers.

The opposition wants the government to backtrack from the deal, saying it endangers Kosovo's territorial integrity. The governing coalition says the opposition wants to come to power through unconstitutional means.

"The agreements reached in Brussels and the border demarcation with Montenegro will not pass," said a joint statement of the opposition bloc of the Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) Movement, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA).

"We will not allow Serbia's return to Kosovo. Kosovo's land will not be given away to Montenegro. The government must withdraw from these agreements."

Serbia rejects Kosovo's 2008 secession, already recognized by more than 100 countries.

Three to four tear gas canisters were opened during the parliamentary session, causing several of those present to seek medical treatment. One of the canisters was opened by Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti, who later threw a glass of water at governing lawmakers. No arrests were made at the session.

A statement from the government deplored "the violence of a group of the opposition ... from which some lawmakers were injured and asked for medical assistance." There were no reports of serious injuries.

Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga denounced the "nasty actions of the opposition's lawmakers."

Parliamentary Speaker Kadri Veseli continued the session, inviting the opposition to take part in the debate on the deals with Serbia to "together express our reservations, or displeasure, or support for the Brussels agreement."

"What is happening is not patriotism and it is not helping Kosovo," he said.

Opposition lawmaker Glauk Konjufca of the Vetevendosje party said the protests at the weekly sessions on Thursdays would continue. This was the third straight disturbance.

The U.S. Embassy said some of its staff members in Pristina were among those injured in the disturbance, which it said made "a mockery of one of Kosovo's most important democratic institutions."

The head of the Organization for Security and Development in Europe's Kosovo mission, Ambassador Jean-Claude Schlumberger, also condemned the acts, calling them "unacceptable and detrimental for democracy."

Prime Minister Isa Mustafa escaped unharmed when eggs were thrown on a street earlier this week. He was the target of more eggs hurled by opposition lawmakers last month when he was escorted out of parliament, assisted by bodyguards protecting him with an umbrella.

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Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, contributed to this report.