Belgrade: Demanding the release of jailed war-crimes suspect Ratko Mladic in Belgrade, several thousand Serbian nationalist supporters rallied outside the parliament building demanding his release. Protesters threw stones and bottles and clashed with baton-wielding riot police.

By the time the crowds broke up by Sunday evening, about 100 people were arrested and 16 minor injuries were reported. That amounted to a victory for the pro-Western government, which arrested Mladic on Thursday, risking the wrath of the nationalist old guard in a country with a history of much larger and more virulent protests.

Rioters overturned garbage containers, broke traffic lights and set off firecrackers as they rampaged through downtown.

Cordons of riot police blocked their advances and skirmishes took place in several locations in the center of the capital.

The clashes began after a rally that drew at least 7,000 demonstrators, many singing nationalist songs and carrying banners honoring Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander. Some chanted right-wing slogans and a few gave Nazi salutes.

Supporters of the extreme nationalist Serbian Radical Party were bused in to attend the rally. Right-wing extremists and hooligan groups also urged followers to appear in large numbers, creating the biggest test of Serbian sentiment and the government's resolve since Mladic's arrest.

The demonstrators, who consider Mladic a hero, said that Serbia should not hand him over to the UN war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Demonstrators demanded the ouster of Serbian President Boris Tadic, who ordered Mladic's arrest. A sign on the stage read, "Tadic is not Serbia."

(Agencies)