BELGRADE - Serbia's government banned gay activists from marching in Belgrade for the third year running on Friday, citing a threat to public safety from right-wing hooligans but risking EU condemnation before the expected start of accession talks.
The last Gay Pride march in 2010 triggered a day of rioting by right-wing nationalists in the capital, Belgrade.
Western ambassadors had heaped pressure on Serbia to allow this year's event to go ahead on Saturday, as a litmus test of the Balkan country's commitment to tolerance and diversity. The EU is due to launch membership talks in January.
But after a three-hour meeting of government leaders and security chiefs, Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said it would not be allowed to proceed.
"After a long discussion on whether the march would pass without severe consequences, the security assessments indicated severe threats to public safety," Dacic, who also heads the Interior Ministry, said on state television.
"This is not a capitulation to the hooligans," he said.
Riot police fanned out through downtown Belgrade on Friday evening and Serbian media reports said more than 6,000 would be deployed to maintain order with a string of anti-gay demonstrations announced for Saturday.