Kosovo parliament session halted by opposition's tear gas

AP News
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Posted: Nov 17, 2015 7:29 AM
Kosovo parliament session halted by opposition's tear gas

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo's opposition used tear gas and pepper spray inside parliament and pelted police with rocks and pink paint outside the building on Tuesday in another attempt to force the government to renounce recent deals with Serbia and Montenegro.

Albin Kurti, a leader of the opposition Self-Determination Movement, used pepper spray on ministers, forcing lawmakers to evacuate the main hall. A tear gas canister was also opened in the hall. Outside, police also used tear gas to stop rock-throwing protesters from breaking in. Windows were broken and riot police were covered in paint. Rocks and firebombs were thrown at police and a few cars were damaged.

Lawmakers from the governing coalition later held the session at a different hall in the building. Opposition parliamentarians were not allowed to enter as the 2016 budget was passed by 79 votes to 1.

"These sessions are illegitimate and those decisions cannot be considered as legitimate," said Visar Ymeri of the Self-Determination party, adding that Kurti and another lawmaker were injured by police pepper spray.

Police denied that, saying lawmaker Albulena Haxhiu was injured by the tar gas used by her colleagues, according to police spokesman Baki Kelani.

The spokesman said six policemen and one protester were injured, and two opposition supporters were arrested after being found with firebombs.

Over the past two months, Kosovo's opposition has sought to disrupt parliament and force the government to renounce a deal with Serbia giving more powers to ethnic-Serb communities and one with Montenegro on border demarcation.

Ymeri said the government is trying to "install in our country a Serbian republic and give to Montenegro 8,000 hectares of our land."

Deputy Prime Minister Hashim Thaci criticized the protesters. "They do not have any argument against the government's agenda and they want to come to power through violence," he said.

The opposition also said it does not trust the Constitutional Court, claiming it is too close to the government. The court last week suspended any action on the deal with Serbia until it has ruled on its constitutionality.

Kosovo in 2008 declared independence from Serbia, but that is not recognized by Belgrade. The two sides are holding EU-led talks to overcome their differences.

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