PRISTINA (Reuters) - Opposition politicians in Kosovo released tear gas in parliament for the second time in a day at midnight on Friday to obstruct a scheduled session as police clashed with hundreds of protesters in Pristina streets demanding cancellation of an EU-brokered agreement with Serbia.
The parliament session scheduled for 4 p.m. (1400GMT) had been postponed for later in the evening after opposition politicians released tear gas in parliament, sending lawmakers rushing from the debating chamber in the third such incident in two weeks.
The session was due to be held at midnight but was cancelled after opposition MPs opened two canisters, releasing tear gas.
At about the same time, the police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters who gathered in front of the parliament building throwing petrol bombs.
The opposition is protesting against a European Union-brokered agreement with Serbia, from which Kosovo declared independence in 2008, and a separate accord demarcating Kosovo’s border with Montenegro.
“We will continue to resist until these two agreements are cancelled,” Donika Kada Bujupi of the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo told reporters after letting off a teargas canister in the chamber in the afternoon.
The opposition says the agreement with Serbia, which grants ethnic Serbs in Kosovo greater local powers and the possibility of funding from Belgrade, represents a threat to the small country’s independence.
The head of a visiting mission from the International Monetary Fund, Jacques Miniane, said the IMF was concerned at the developments in parliament and that they would damage investors’ confidence.
“This is delaying the approval of important legislation, some of which is critical to the government’s economic reform agenda and to the viability of Kosovo’s Fund-supported program,” Miniane said.
In June Kosovo reached a deal with the IMF for a 185 million euro ($204 million) stand-by deal.
The Unites States, the biggest supporter of the young state, has said recent developments will hurt Kosovo’s ambition to join the European Union.
“To those people who bring weapons into the Kosovo assembly ... I have a message: you are hurting Kosovo’s economy, you are risking isolating Kosovo from the Euro-Atlantic community,” U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie said on Thursday.
Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 1999, when NATO bombed Serb targets for 11 weeks to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian forces trying to crush a two-year guerrilla insurgency.
After almost a decade as a ward of the United Nations, the majority-Albanian territory declared independence in 2008 and has been recognised by more than 100 countries, including the major Western powers, but not by Serbia or its big-power ally Russia.
($1 = 0.9084 euros)
Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Christian Plumb