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news 27 Nov 12

Serbian Albanians Mark Century of Albania

Ethnic Albanians in Serbia have joined celebrations by Albanians all over the Balkans marking 100 years of Albania's independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Bojana Barlovac

In the ethnically mixed southern Serbian town of Bujanovac on Tuesday, streets were decked out with Albanian flags and its red and black colours, hanging from homes, businesses and vehicles.

Nexhat Behluli, vice-president of the Democratic Party of Bujanovac, said that the central event would take place at noon in front of the town hall where Albanian and Serbian flags would be flown and lit up.

"Hundreds of high-school students, specially dressed for this purpose, will make up the number 100 and send that image to the world," Behluli said on Tuesday.

After this, local Albanian leaders were to address crowds from a replica of the house in Vlora on which the Albanian flag was first flown following the declaration of independence in 1912.

Flag Day commemorates November 28, 1912 when Albania proclaimed independence from the Ottoman Empire and when the red-and-black flag of the Albanian hero, Skanderbeg, was hoisted in Vlora.

Serbian Albanians are celebrating it a day earlier than usual as this year marks 100 years of Albania's independence and many local leaders are travelling to Tirana to attend the central celebration.

The program in Tirana will include a fair with Albanian products, several open-air concerts, new monuments, exhibitions and a massive centennial cake.

South Serbia's 50,000 or so Albanians have marked Flag Day since 2002, following a brief armed conflict between security forces and Albanian rebels that ended with the help of the international community and NATO.

In previous years, Albanian Flag Day was marked in Bujanovac and Presevo with the Albanian flag being hung from municipal buildings alongside the Serbian flag.

On several occasions, there have been incidents, usually involving the Serbian flag being removed from the town hall in Presevo, and replaced by the Albanian flag alone.

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