Serbia to decide on Albanian PM visit after football mayhem

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Belgrade (AFP) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Friday he was undecided whether his Albanian counterpart should go ahead with a planned historic visit after violence halted a Serbia-Albania football match this week.

Vucic told state-run television RTS that he was to decide by the end of the week whether to allow the October 22 visit by Edi Rama -- the first such trip by an Albanian prime minister to Serbia in 68 years.

Albania's deputy prime minister Niko Peleshi had earlier Friday told AFP that "Rama confirmed that he has decided to travel to Belgrade".

The visit, if it happens, would come barely a week after a Euro 2016 qualifying tie in the Serbian capital had to be abandoned on Tuesday night after a drone carried a pro-Albanian flag over the stadium sparked fighting between the two sides.

- 'Provocation' -

Serbian leaders had labelled the incident a planned "political provocation".

European football's governing body UEFA has opened a formal probe into both Serbia and Albania over the violence, on and off the pitch, for which both countries blame each other.

Serbia's interior ministry accused Rama's brother of controlling the drone from his seat in the stadium's executive box.

But the brother, an economist named Olsi Rama, who later returned to Tirana with the Albanian team to a hero's welcome, denied the claims.

"I was neither arrested nor detained. When the incident occurred the situation became chaotic, police were checking everyone."

Meanwhile, Vucic told Serbian state-run RTS television that he Albanian officials were "pretending... they do not know what this is about, since everything that happened started with this shameful flag of a 'Greater Albania'".

A probe into the incident was advancing, he said and added that "many will not be happy" with its results.

Serbian authorities will present "uncontestable facts" on the incident as well as on its "very serious planning aimed at humiliating Serbia and provoking unrest," Vucic said.

Albania's deputy prime minister argued that Tirana's position over Rama's visit remained the same, that it should take place "despite the disappointment caused by the incidents and reaction of Serbian officials".

"This visit is in the interest of our two countries but of course it comes to the Serbian part to confirm its commitment and will to ensure that it goes on smoothly."

- Falling into 'trap of violence'? -

An Albanian foreign ministry spokesman said earlier Friday that Tirana was continuing preparations for Rama's visit.

"Albania has firmly decided not to fall into the trap of violence which marked the football match," spokesman Glevi Dervisihi said.

Rama's visit was made possible by improved ties between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo, populated mostly by ethnic Albanians.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 despite opposition from Belgrade.

The April 2013 deal between Belgrade and Pristina on normalisation of relations was brokered by the European Union. The former foes, as well as Albania, hope to join the bloc.

Relations between Tirana and Belgrade have been sensitive over Kosovo and the ethnic Albanian minority in southern Serbia, which often demands more autonomy.

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