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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 February 2008, 18:14 GMT
Kosovo protest passes off peacefully
by Matt Cole
BBC News, in London

Beneath fluttering flags and some strongly-worded placards, the protest against Britain's recognition of the newly independent Kosovo was brought to central London.

Serbian protesters outside Downing Street
Blonde teenager Bojana Vuckovic's message was simple

But in stark contrast to the violent clashes seen in Belgrade earlier this week, the protest by about 300 people in London on Saturday afternoon was an altogether more amiable affair.

Gathered behind the barriers set up across from the entrance of Downing Street, this was a family affair.

Young children clutched the hands of their parents, who in turn stood shoulder-to-shoulder with grandparents.

Many young men, cigarettes in hand, wore traditional Serbian hats. These are apparently most commonly worn by old men in villages across Serbia, but beneath the red, white and blue national flags of Serbia - and even one Jolly Roger - this headwear took on a more military appearance.

However, there was little sense of accompanying menace.

'Kosovo is Serbia'

One solitary figure wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of the indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, but he was but one man in a crowd of more than 300.

For the most part those gathered contented themselves with chatter and banter, though when the TV cameras arrived, some started chanting.

We don't want to let it go because it's ours, even if the majority of people there aren't Serbian
Protestor Bojana Vuckovic

"Kosovo is Serbia! Kosovo is Serbia!" was the basic cry - though later, one creative section of the crowd began to set it to the tune of the Beatles' hit "Yellow Submarine".

Whether Prime Minister Gordon Brown could hear the chant across the road in Downing Street is not known.

But if the prime minister had peered out of No 10's door, the placards would have made the demonstrators' position clear.

Serbian protesters outside Downing Street
Comparisons were drawn between Kosovo and Northern Ireland

Some placards accused Kosovo of being a terrorist state, others warned that a greater level of independence for the province would see a rise in sex trafficking, but most simply said "Kosovo is Serbia".

The largest banner read: "Independent for Kosovo - Independent for Northern Ireland."

The charge was simple. The protesters are accusing the British government of hypocrisy - willing to support Kosovo's separation from Serbia while refusing the demands of republicans in Northern Ireland for a similar settlement.


Teenager Bojana Vuckovic summed up most people's view: "We're fighting for our country - for Kosovo. They're trying to take it away from us, but we won't let it go. Because Kosovo is Serbia."

With her mother nodding alongside her, she went on: "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia, it's where all Serbs started and we're not going to let it go because that symbolises our country.

"We don't mind other people living there, of course we have nothing against them, but they can't take our country from us just because they're the majority.

"The majority of people in London aren't English, but we can't take London away from England. Because it is England. That's exactly how we feel about our country.

"We don't want to let it go because it's ours, even if the majority of people there aren't Serbian."

A small delegation of protestors was allowed to take a petition up to the door of No 10.

But while the government might not agree with the 300 Serbian demonstrators, it will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on the fledgling state Kosovo and the unfolding response to its independence.

Soldiers patrol the divided Kosovan town of Mitrovica

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