BELGRADE – Serb ultra-nationalist lawmakers held up insulting signs in parliament Wednesday as US Vice President Joe Biden, considered a strong backer of Kosovo independence, arrived in Belgrade.
"Biden, you Nazi scum, go home," said the posters brandished by opposition Radical Party deputies during the live national broadcast of a parliament sitting which coincided with the start of Biden's visit.
The Radicals, who occupy around a fifth of places in the 250-seat assembly, then pasted the signs which also labelled Biden a "fascist" on a notice board and hallway.
They all appeared in parliament dressed in T-shirts bearing the image of the party's president, Vojislav Seselj, who is currently on trial for war crimes before a UN tribunal in The Hague.
Seselj's acting leader Dragan Todorovic described Biden's visit as "the saddest day in Serbia's history."
The United States represented "all bad things that have struck the Serbian people, and whose inspirer was for the large part Biden," Todorovic was as quoted as saying by Tanjug news agency.
Nationalist Serbs are deeply sceptical of Biden's visit, which the US vice president said was part of the Obama administration's bid to develop "healthy" relations with the former pariah state.
US warplanes took part in NATO's 1999 bombing of Serbia to end a violent crackdown on separatist Kosovo Albanian rebels by forces loyal to late autocratic president Slobodan Milosevic.
The 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict killed several thousand people and saw hundreds of thousands flee the disputed territory. Most victims were ethnic Albanians.
Serb authorities have imposed stringent security measures for Biden's visit, part of a landmark tour of the Balkan region also taking in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Kosovo is an ethnic Albanian-majority territory whose ethnic Albanian-dominated parliament seceded from Serbia in February 2008 and was promptly recognised by the United States.
Although Belgrade's pro-Western government is keen to improve ties with Washington, it insists it will never recognise the independence of Kosovo, which many Serbs see as their historic heartland.