Protesters in savage clash with police

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Several civilians and police were reported wounded in the centre of Belgrade last night, after savage street fighting broke out between riot police and a crowd of up to 20,000, writes Marcus Tanner.

Demonstrators hurled stones at the federal parliament building and Serbia's state-controlled television centre, smashing windows and the lights outside, after riot police formed a cordon around the buildings and fired rounds of tear gas.

The crowds massed in the centre of the city early last night to stage a peaceful protest against a member of the ruling Serbian Socialist Party, who beat up a liberal opposition deputy, Maihajlo Markovic, inside the parliament building.

But when the police sent heavily-armed reinforcements to seal off the centre of Belgrade, the crowd turned angry and began screaming anti-government slogans and throwing stones.

The riot was the worst in Belgrade since a big anti-government protest in March 1990 shook the government of Slobodan Milosevic and ended with army tanks thundering through the streets.