Pro-Serbia protests rock Montenegro

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POLICE fired tear gas at thousands of angry pro-Serb Montenegrins who pelted state buildings with rocks and flares to protest their government's recognition of Kosovo's independence last night. At least 34 people were injured.

The protesters chanted "Treason! Treason!" and "Kosovo is Serbia!" to condemn the government's decision last week to recognise Kosovo, the former Serbian province which declared its independence in February.

Eleven protesters and 23 police officers were injured during the running clashes in downtown Podgorica, Montenegro's capital, hospital officials said. Police said 28 demonstrators were arrested.

Earlier, about 10,000 protesters gave the country's pro-western government until tomorrow to withdraw its recognition of Kosovo, or they would try to topple it "by unparliamentary means."

"This is the biggest shame in Montenegrin history," Andrija Mandic, a leader of the pro-Serbian opposition in the parliament, told a rally in Podgorica.

He and other pro-Serbian officials demanded a referendum on Kosovo's recognition. About 35 per cent of Montenegro's population of 650,000 declare themselves as Serbs.

After Montenegro and Macedonia, Serbia's neighbours, recognised Kosovo on Thursday, Belgrade expelled the two Balkan countries' ambassadors and threatened additional retaliatory measures. Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia were once all part of Yugoslavia.

Montenegro, considered Serbia's closest ally, did not split from Serbia until 2006.

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