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Dozens Injured In Kosovo Protest Against 'Savages' Slur

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service

Dozens of people were injured on January 27 when Kosovo police clashed with thousands of demonstrators demanding the dismissal of a Serbian minister accused of insulting the ethnic-Albanian majority.

Police used tear gas to disperse stone-throwing protesters outside the government building in the center of the capital, Pristina.

At least 80 people, including 50 policemen, were injured, and some 150 others were detained, officials said.

It was the latest in a series of protests calling for the sacking of Labor and Social Welfare Minister Aleksandar Jablanovic, one of three ethnic Serb ministers in Prime Minister Isa Mustafa's cabinet.

Jablanovic sparked outrage two weeks ago when he called a group of ethnic Albanians "savages" for trying to prevent Serbian pilgrims from visiting a monastery in western Kosovo on Orthodox Christmas.

The group had claimed "war criminals" were among the pilgrims.

Jablanovic has since apologized.

Mustafa, barely six weeks in office, accused his opponents of trying to seize power by force.

"All these political parties have accepted the election results," he said. "They must respect the vote of the citizens and not attempt to take power through violence."

The protests have also been fueled by the government's reversal over the fate of a huge mining complex claimed by Serbia.

Mustafa's government had pledged to take control of the Trepca mine, which has been held in trust by a United Nations-created privatization body since Kosovo's 1998-99 war.

But Mustafa reversed that decision days later after strong opposition from Serbia -- which claims 75 percent ownership of the complex -- as well as Western countries concerned at the possible repercussions for a fragile European Union-led dialogue between the two sides.

Trepca's lead, zinc and silver mines once accounted for 75 percent of the mineral wealth of socialist Yugoslavia, employing 20,000 people.

With additional reporting by Reuters and AFP