Police protected participants in a pride parade in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Sunday.

The event was the first to be held in nearly a decade, and the first ever to run its full course.

Serbia’s first attempt at a pride march was broken up by skinheads in 2001, while an event planned for September last year was effectively banned by the Government in response to threats of violence from far right groups.

But this year the Government deployed 5000 police and armoured vehicles to protect the pride march.

Their readiness was tested when hundreds of members of the Obraz far right group and soccer fans rioted in an attempt to breach police cordons to attack pride participants.

Police made 207 arrests, with 100 people held for further questioning.

During the event, 124 police officers were injured by rioters throwing rocks and bottles.

Rioters destroyed 11 police cars and looted stores before being fought back by police using tear gas.

Also attacked were the headquarters of a women’s rights group and the office of the ruling Serbian Democratic Party.

In the aftermath, Serbian president Boris Tadic condemned the attacks.

“Serbia will guarantee human rights for all its citizens, regardless of the differences among them, and no attempts to revoke these freedoms with violence will be allowed,” Tadic said.

Serbia is seeking to join the European Union and its willingness and ability to protect the rights of minority groups has been seen as a key test in the country receiving EU candidate status by 2012.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Serbia in 1994, and an equal age of consent set at 14 introduced in 2006, while anti-discrimination laws protecting people on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity were enacted last year.

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