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Large Anti-Government Protest In Kosovo Turns Violent

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Large Anti-Government Protest In Kosovo Turns Violent

The protesters, who numbered around 10,000, called for the government to resign because it had failed to withdraw from the controversial agreements. (AFP)

Pristina, Kosovo:  Thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets in Kosovo's capital Saturday, with police firing tear gas as some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and set fire to a government building.

The rally was the latest in a long-running protest against deals reached by the government with Serbia -- the country from which Kosovo seceded in 2008 -- and a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro.

The protesters, who numbered around 10,000, called for the government to resign because it had failed to withdraw from the controversial agreements, particularly a deal to set up an association of Serb-run municipalities for Kosovo's Serb minority.

Those opposing the deal believe it will deepen the ethnic divide and increase Serbian influence in Kosovo, whose 1.8 million-strong population is mostly ethnic Albanian and Muslim.

"We will not be governed by those who trade our sovereignty. We are seeking free elections to be organised immediately, because they no longer have the right to govern Kosovo," said Fatmir Limaj, the leader of the political party Initiative for Kosovo.

While opposition leaders made speeches near the seat of government in Pristina, some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and stones over a line of special forces deployed around the building.

Several windows were broken and the corner of a building was set alight, leading police to respond with tear gas, said an AFP journalist at the scene.

Police spokesman Baki Kelani later told reporters that 10 police officers, two citizens and two journalists were injured in the clashes, and 24 protesters were arrested.  

Serbia does not recognise Kosovo's independence and the dialogue between them, brokered by the European Union, is designed to improve relations between the two sides that fought a war in 1998 and 1999.

Opposition lawmakers have paralysed the functioning of parliament in Pristina since mid-September, disrupting sessions by releasing tear gas, in a bid to get the agreements with Serbia overturned.

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