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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 06:50 GMT
Serb anger and frustration over Kosovo
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Belgrade

The morning after Serbia lost Kosovo, the street cleaners in Belgrade were out picking up the glass from the pavements.

Riots in Belgrade (17 February 2008)
The scale of the violence in Belgrade was relatively small

It followed hours of rioting when up to 1,000 people, mainly football hooligans, rampaged through the city centre smashing windows, pushing huge rubbish bins into the road and wrenching up traffic signs.

The violence was interspersed with chants of "Serbia" and "Kosovo is Serbia".

Earlier they had targeted the US embassy and the embassy of Slovenia, which currently holds the European Union Presidency.

A few rocks were thrown, a few windows were smashed. People were injured and there were a number of arrests.

Show of unity

The scale of the violence, and the numbers involved, were pretty small.

But, in a sense, the anger and frustration that spilled onto the streets did fairly represent the feelings of the vast majority of the Serb people.

Serbian protest outside the US embassy in Belgrade (17 February 2008)
Protesters earlier targeted the US and Slovenian embassies

The country's cultural and spiritual heartland was gone. It was now part of another country and that was hard to take.

In fact, the official attitude is that nothing has changed.

Independence will not be recognised, it will never be recognised, chorused the main political leaders in Belgrade.

Indeed, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Serbia would broaden and strengthen its support for Kosovo's Serbs.

In a rare show of unity, the leaders of the three main political parties in Belgrade agreed to call for a mass demonstration in the capital on Thursday to show the widespread opposition to independence.

EU 'betrayal'

Serbia and the Serbs feel hurt and betrayed, especially by countries in the EU.

As long as Serbs exist, Kosovo is Serbia
Vojislav Kostunica
Serbian Prime Minister

And relations between Serbia and the EU are set for a rocky ride, with the EU due to deploy a 2,000-strong mission to the new state of Kosovo over the coming weeks and months.

Pristina may have declared independence, but for Belgrade it is business as usual - Kosovo remains an integral part of Serbia.

Mr Kostunica summed it up: "As long as Serbs exist, Kosovo is Serbia."

One chapter in Kosovo's history may have now closed, but the story is far from over.

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