Kosovo opposition lawmakers block Parliament with tear gas

AP News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2016 8:52 AM
Kosovo opposition lawmakers block Parliament with tear gas

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Despite security checks at the entrance, Kosovo opposition lawmakers on Friday again used tear gas to block work from being done in Parliament to pressure the government into renouncing deals with Serbia and Montenegro.

The session, delayed for about 50 minutes, was temporarily suspended Friday after a tear gas canister was launched from opposition lawmakers' seats. A resumed session an hour later was suspended again for the same reason.

After the use of the tear gas for the third time, Speaker Kadri Veseli, himself wearing an anti-gas mask, could not keep his governing lawmakers from leaving the hall due to the gas.

Then police forcefully brought out all opposition lawmakers. One of them, Albulena Haxhiu, fainted while trying to re-enter and clashed with policemen guarding the main entrance.

Veseli said the session will resume, despite the problems.

Outside the Parliament a few hundred opposition supporters were gathered shouting anti-government slogans.

Opposition lawmakers said they are determined not to allow normal operations at the Parliament, demanding the government's resignation and fresh elections.

Since September, the opposition has disrupted Parliament with tear gas, pepper spray, whistles and water bottles. They reject a deal between Kosovo and Serbia, reached last year, which gives more powers to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. They are also against a border demarcation deal with Montenegro.

In December, Kosovo's Constitutional Court decided that part of the deal with Serbia was not in line with the constitution.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci of the governing Democratic Party of Kosovo said the government is determined to continue its daily agenda, considering the use of tear gas as "ugly."

"Opposition reaction may continue but they should get used to the idea that they cannot come to power by violence," Thaci said.

Kosovo's Western backers have denounced the violence, calling on the opposition to resolve the political crisis in Parliament.

Kosovo's 2008 independence has been recognized by 111 countries, including the U.S. and major European Union nations. But it is rejected by Serbia, with support from Russia, which has blocked Kosovo from becoming a U.N. member.

Kosovo and Serbia are holding EU-mediated talks to try to overcome their differences.

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Gresa Kraja in Pristina, Kosovo, and Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, contributed to this report.