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Croatian Lawmakers End Serbia Visit After Nationalist Seselj Stamps On Flag

Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj speaks during an interview with AFP in Belgrade on March 29.
Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj speaks during an interview with AFP in Belgrade on March 29.

A Croatian parliamentary delegation has cut short a visit to neighboring Serbia after nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj, recently convicted of war crimes by a United Nations court, stamped on the Croatian national flag and cursed the visitors.

"At the entrance of the [Serbian] parliament Seselj...desecrated the Croatian flag and then, passing by members of the Croatian delegation, insulted them," read a statement by the Croatian delegation led by parliament speaker Gordan Jandrokovic.

"Despite a very good start and determination to improve our ties, after this act against the dignity of the Republic of Croatia, we interrupted the visit," it added.

Seselj threw the flag on the floor and stepped over it, according to a statement from Seselj's Serbian Radical Party.

Serbian officials including Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic condemned the incident.

"I unequivocally condemn Vojislav Seselj's conduct," Brnabic wrote on Twitter.

"Attempting to tear a Croatian or anybody else's flag or state symbols and insulting members of official delegations visiting our country is not the behavior that represents Serbia, the values of the Serbian government, and the majority of our citizens," she added.

Last week, a Hague-based panel of UN judges partially overturned Seselj's acquittal on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague sentenced him to 10 years in prison but ruled that he has already served that time.

Relations between the two countries have been strained since Croatia's declaration of independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, which set off a four-year conflict with rebel ethnic Serbs supported by Belgrade.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

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