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Albania and Serbia blame each other over football flag-flying stunt


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Albania and Serbia blame each other over football flag-flying stunt

Albania and Serbia are blaming each other amid a diplomatic row over Tuesday night’s flag-flying stunt, that led to the football international in Belgrade between the two Balkan nations being abandoned.

The brother of Albania’s prime minister has denied guiding the drone that flew a nationalist flag over the pitch.

Olsi Rama said he had been “taken aside” by police, but denied being arrested in the stands.

Some Serbian media said the 45-year-old was caught with the remote control in his hands.

“I’ve never used a drone in my life, only bought my son a toy helicopter,” he said.

An Albanian fan group has claimed to have flown the flag.

It was grabbed by a Serbian player, prompting an angry reaction from the Albanian team.

The Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said the aim of the stunt was to humiliate the Serbian people, and to cause long-lasting instability in Serbia and throughout the Western Balkans.

The Albanian extremists wanted to portray Serbia as an intolerant country, he added.

The PM also claimed to have warned EU representatives before the match that something was being planned.

Belgrade has described the stunt as “political provocation”, and denies responsibility for the violence that followed.

Albania meanwhile is showing no remorse either.

Its team arrived home in Tirana to a heroes’ welcome. Players had been attacked by Serbian fans who invaded the pitch, and pelted from the stands as they ran for cover.

The Albanian Sports Minister Lindita Nikolla said:
“We demonstrated civilised behaviour, a characteristic the Albanian people want to show as an important factor in peace and understanding. I express my gratitude as a citizen and as the Minister of Sports for all the values our team showed.”

Other senior Albanian government figures have lavished similar praise via their Facebook pages.

The row threatens to overshadow a planned historic visit to Belgrade by Albania’s prime minister Edi Rama – and to reverse a thaw in relations between the two nations which both want to join the EU.

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