- Title: SERBIA / USA: Protesters ransack U.S. embassy in Belgrade
- Date: 22nd February 2008
- Summary: (BN17) WASHINGTON, DC, USA (FEBRUARY 21, 2008) (POOL) WIDE OF SPOKESMAN AT PODIUM (SOUNDBITE) (English) STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN SEAN MCCORMACK SAYING: "She [Secretary Rice] directed him [Under-Secretary Burns] to call the Serbian Prime Minister, as well as the Serbian Foreign Minister. The message was very clear: that the situation was intolerable; that they needed to act immediately to provide security forces so that our embassy compound and our personnel were not under attack. He made it very clear to the foreign minister that we would hold the Serbian government personally responsible for the safety and well-being of our embassy employees." WIDE OF SPOKESMAN AT PODIUM (SOUNDBITE) (English) STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN SEAN MCCORMACK SAYING: "But the bottom line is that the security present at the time of the protesters approaching our embassy was inadequate." WIDE OF SPOKESMAN AT PODIUM (SOUNDBITE) (English) STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN SEAN MCCORMACK SAYING: "We received reports from the Belgrade fire officials that they found a burned body in an unoccupied, what has been described to me as an unoccupied area of one of the embassy buildings. WIDE OF SPOKESMAN AT PODIUM (SOUNDBITE) (English) STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN SEAN MCCORMACK SAYING: "One thing we know for certain is that all Americans are safe and accounted for. I have not heard the same about all embassy employees. I don't have any reason to believe at this point, that the victim was an embassy employee, but I can't tell you that I have the report that all embassy employees, all locally employed staff are safe and accounted for." WIDE OF SPOKESMAN AT PODIUM
- Embargoed: 8th March 2008 12:00
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Reuters ID: LVA1G10XXRT1F6MAO5I2NELAOY97
- Story Text: State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that a charred body was found in the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade after people angry at Kosovo independence took their frustrations set the building on fire, U.S. officials said on Thursday (February 21.) But McCormack said that all American personnel at the embassy had been accounted for and there was nothing to suggest the body was an embassy employee.
McCormack could not say that all embassy personnel who were not U.S.
citizens were accounted for.
About 70 American diplomats served in the Belgrade embassy.
Serb protesters ransacked and set fire to the U.S. embassy in Belgrade on Thursday, venting anger at U.S. support for Kosovo's declaration of independence.
Police, nowhere to be seen when the U.S. embassy was attacked, moved in half an hour later, firing teargas and beating and detaining rioters to disperse the crowd.
The building had been closed and boarded up after rioters stoned it on Sunday.
Police in armoured vans secured the streets and tried to cordon off the whole embassy district. People tried to flee clouds of teargas.
Serbian President Boris Tadic appealed for calm, calling on protesters to quit the streets and stop attacking embassies, saying: "This only keeps Kosovo distant from Serbia."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad said that he would be going to the Security Council for a statement on the issue.
"I'm outraged by the mob attack against the U.S. embassy in Belgrade," he told reporters ahead of a previously scheduled Security Council meeting.
"I'm going to go in to the Security Council and ask for a unanimous statement to be issued expressing the council's outrage, condemning the attack and also reminding the Serb government of its responsibility to protect diplomatic facilities."
Rioters -- many wearing balaclavas and scarves to hide their faces -- had attacked the U.S. embassy with sticks and metal bars after destroying two guard boxes outside.
They ripped metal grilles from windows and tore a handrail off the entrance to use as a battering ram and gain entry.
One man climbed up to the first floor, ripped the Stars and Stripes off its pole and briefly put up a Serbian flag.
Other people jumped up and down on the balcony, holding up a Serbian flag as the crowd below of about 1,000 people cheered them on, shouting "Serbia, Serbia".
Black smoke billowed out of the embassy. Papers and chairs were thrown out of the windows, with doors wedged in the window frames and burning.
Some 200 riot police arrived later, driving the crowd away. Some protesters sat on the ground, bleeding. Fire engines arrived to put out the flames, local media reported.
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