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Kosovo protesters demand government resignation on independence day

On the country's eighth independence day, thousands of protesters in Kosovo have called for new leadership. The opposition supporters have accused the government of violating the constitution.

Shouting anti-government slogans, thousands of opposition-supporting protesters gathered in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, on Wednesday to rally against the government.

"Kosovo will not allow itself to be led by people who have violated the constitution, its sovereignty," said Visar Ymeri, leader of the main opposition Self-Determination Movement party.

Ymeri has given the government until February 27 to resign and announce new elections, or "our protests will not stop."

Rally participants enthusiastically waved Albania's red-and-black national flag and only a few Kosovo flags. The country is comprised of mostly ethnic Albanians.

The opposition party rejects an EU-brokered deal that the government made with Serbia last year which gives more powers to Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority. In December, the Constitutional Court declared that part of the deal was unconstitutional.

They also oppose a border demarcation deal which was reached with Montenegro and have called for a referendum on the matter.

The rally participants dispersed peacefully, but another protest was called for Friday when Kosovo's parliament might begin procedures to elect a new president.

Opposition lawmakers throw tear gas during a session of Kosovo's parliament

Opposition lawmakers have thwarted parliamentary sessions by throwing tear gas

Tear gas in parliament

The day began with a military parade at a government-held ceremony to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the country's independence from Serbia.

President Atifete Jahjaga said the people have a "democratic right" to voice their opinions but appealed for a "dignified and peaceful protest".

"Such a government has a clear mandate. It has the legitimacy to serve the citizens who trusted it with the majority of votes in a democratic process accepted by the whole political spectrum in Kosovo," said Prime Minister Isa Mustafa.

Over the past four months, opposition members of parliament have sought to disrupt parliament by releasing tear gas into the main chamber and by blowing whistles.

Members of the international community have denounced the opposition party's violent tactics, asking for them to resolve the political deadlock by working together in parliament.

Kosovo declared its independence from Belgrade in February 2008, a move which has been widely recognized by 111 countries, including the US and major European Union member states.

However, their claim to independence has been rejected by Serbia, along with the support of Russia. The two have successfully blocked Kosovo from becoming a UN member.

rs/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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