Kosovo Opposition fires tear gas, pepper spray in Parliament

Kosovo's opposition fired tear gas and pepper spray in parliament on Tuesday.

Pristina: Kosovo's opposition fired tear gas and pepper spray in parliament on Tuesday while protesters outside threw stones and paint, in the latest eruption of a long-running protest against agreements made with Serbia.

Opposition MPs have been paralysing parliamentary sessions for weeks in a bid to thwart EU-brokered dialogue and agreements with Serbia, the country from which Kosovo broke away and declared independence in 2008.

Despite a heavy police presence in and around the parliament, tear gas was released today for the fourth time in the chamber, while prominent opposition MP Albin Kurti fired pepper spray, said an AFP reporter at the scene.

Kurti, from the Self-Determination party and a leading figure in the ongoing protests, sprayed in the direction of ministers but was blocked by two rows of police.

The disruption forced MPs from the governing coalition to reconvene in another room to finish the session on next year's budget but without the presence of opposition deputies.

"This is a criminal act of individuals against whom measures should be taken. They should be held accountable before the law," Prime Minister Isa Mustafa told the reconvened MPs.

"We will not allow a minority of 30 deputies to obstruct the work of the parliamentary majority."

Outside parliament, meanwhile, clashes continued between around 100 protesters and anti-riot police, who fired tear gas in retaliation to hurled bottles, stones and paint, said an AFP photographer.

The tensions came as King Abdullah II of Jordan was due to make an official visit to Kosovo today.

The protesters are especially opposed to plans to set up an association of Serb-run municipalities giving greater autonomy to Kosovo's Serb minority, saying the initiative will deepen the ethnic divide and increase Serbia's influence in Kosovo.

The agreement was reached during EU-brokered dialogue with Serbia, which aims to improve relations between the two sides that were at war in 1998-1999.

Belgrade refuses to recognise the independence of Kosovo, whose population is predominantly ethnic Albanian.

The opposition also rejects a border agreement made with neighbouring Montenegro in August, which it says led to a loss of territory.

"Our requests are clear. We have been opposing the parliament for almost two months now, and we will continue until they are fulfilled," said Visar Ymeri, the head of the Self-Determination party.

Earlier this month, Kosovo's constitutional court suspended the implementation of the controversial association of Serb-run municipalities, pending the court's review, following failed attempts by parliamentary leaders to reach a compromise on the issue. 

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