Kosovo Protesters Demand Government Resignation


Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Kosovo's capital on Wednesday, vowing to stay put until the government resigns, after spending a rainy night camped out at the protest site.

Opposition politicians, who are angry over an EU-backed deal with Serbia, launched the protest calling for snap elections outside the main government building on Tuesday.

"How long we will stay here? It doesn't depend on us but on the government," said opposition supporter and law student Sherif Beqiri, 21, after spending the night at the protest camp.

The opposition fears the deal with Serbia, to create an association giving more powers to Kosovo's Serb minority, will deepen Kosovo's ethnic divisions and increase the influence of Belgrade.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and Belgrade does not recognize the former province's sovereignty.

The opposition also opposes a border demarcation deal reached with neighbouring Montenegro, which it says cedes Kosovo's territory.

"This regime tried to forcefully implement these agreements and they have not resigned... We are going to be here 24/7," said Ramush Haradinaj, leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party.

Opposition leaders say they want to thwart the government's plan for parliament to elect Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci as Kosovo's president in the next few days.

The parliament has until March 7 to election a new president, otherwise it must call early elections.

The united opposition has prevented the normal functioning of parliament since October with various methods of protest, including setting off tear gas canisters in the chamber.

Anti-government street demonstrators have further accused the authorities of corruption and lagging development in Muslim-majority Kosovo, which has 1.8 million people and an unemployment rate of around 40 percent.

Despite the poor weather, protesters camped overnight from Tuesday in around 60 tents and were provided with food and hot drinks, as well as a huge screen to watch the Arsenal-Barcelona Champions League match.

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