Hundreds of protesters overrun the closed American embassy in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both pledged to withdraw US forces then bickered over which of them had a faster retreat strategy. Walter Cronkite declared if there was going to be a war there we had already lost it.
The State Department says Serbian security “wasn’t adequate” at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade when protesters overran it and set it on fire.
Spokesman Sean McCormack also says U.S. officials warned Serbian leaders that the U.S. would hold them personally responsible for further damage to the embassy.
Serb rioters set fire to an embassy office Thursday and police clashed with protesters outside other embassy buildings after an estimated 150,000 people demonstrated against Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
Serbian TV showed someone trying to set fire to the U.S. flag at the embassy, which was closed and unstaffed when the masked protesters attacked.
Riot police fired tear gas at the rioters and lines of armored vehicles were on the streets before the embassy perimeter was secured. A State Department official told CNN “things are under control.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said; “We are in contact with the Serbian government to ensure that they devote the appropriate assets to fulfill their international obligations to help protect diplomatic facilities in this case.”
Kosovo declared independence last Sunday and the United States was among the first countries to offer official recognition of its split from Serbia.
Bratislaw Grubacic, chief editor of VIP magazine in Belgrade, said police reported 32 people injured, including 14 police officers. Video Watch as a protester tries to set fire to the embassy flag »
Teresa Gould, a translator for Belgrade TV, said the Croatian Embassy next door also was attacked. Police quickly rounded up the demonstrators, witnesses said. Video Watch as witness says protestesters threw rocks, Molotov cocktail »
Smaller groups attacked police posts outside the Turkish and British embassies in another part of the city but were beaten back, The Associated Press reported.
The violence was part of a much bigger, peaceful demonstration where up to 150,000 people chanted ‘Kosovo is Serbia,” and vowed to never accept the province’s independence.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who earlier addressed the peaceful rally, said “Kosovo is Serbia’s first name.” He called the declaration of independence last Sunday illegal and said will do all he can to get it annulled.
State railroads provided free transport to protesters, and schools across the country were closed Thursday for the “Kosovo is Ours” rally in the Serb capital, The Associated Press reported.