Two dead following Pristina clashes

Two people died overnight of injuries sustained in clashes Saturday between police and Albanian protesters, UN police said.

They were among four people seriously wounded when United Nations and Kosovo police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of Albanians protesting a U.N. plan they say falls short of full independence for the province, Reuters reports.

The Associated Press reported earlier that some 70 protesters requested medical assistance, mainly from the effects of tear gas, while eight people were wounded in the clashes, four seriously, quoting police spokesman Veton Elshani.

Police said 15 protesters were arrested, including Self-Determination leader Albin Kurti, while eight officers were hurt.

U.N. 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 in Kosovo's capital.

Chief U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveiled his proposal for Kosovo's future a week ago. The plan does not explicitly call for Kosovo's independence from Serbia, but spells out conditions for self-rule - including a flag, anthem, army, constitution and the right to apply for membership in international organizations.

"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 protesters, who was arrested by police Saturday.

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

Kurti also said the protesters were opposed to ethnic Albanian leaders who made "many concessions to Serbia without bringing independence."

"Protest provoked violence"

The Priština negotiating team said today that by staging their protest Saturday, the Self-Determination movement members "provoked violence, caused tensions and instability, contrary to Kosovo’s interests".

"The negotiating team is calling on all citizens to maintain the country’s stability", the statement issued after the team’s emergency meeting reads.

The statement also said that any violence against institutions and disturbance of public order were unacceptable, adding that protests such as the one organized in Priština yesterday "could have a negative impact in the process of the establishment of the state of Kosovo".

[Source: B92, Beta, Reuters, AP, Pristina, 11Feb07]

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