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Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2008

As US, European allies support Kosovo, global rift widens

February 19, 2008

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— The U.S. and the European Union's biggest powers quickly recognized Kosovo as an independent nation Monday, widening a split with Russia, China and some EU members strongly opposed to letting the territory break away from Serbia.

A day after Kosovo declared independence, ethnic Serbs in the north angrily denounced the United States and urged Russia to help Serbia hold on to the territory that Serbs consider the birthplace of their civilization.

Protesters also marched in Serbia's capital, and that nation recalled its ambassador to the U.S. to protest American recognition for an independent Kosovo.

Despite clamoring of Serbs to retake Kosovo, Serbia's government has ruled out a military response.

But the dispute is likely to worsen already strained relations between the West and Russia, which is a traditional ally of Serbia and seeks to restore its influence in former Soviet bloc states.

The Kremlin could become less likely to help in international efforts important to the U.S. and its allies, such as pressuring Iran to rein in its nuclear program.

Still, for Washington the declaration of independence by Kosovo vindicated years of dogged effort to help a land achieve its dream of self-determination after years of ethnic conflict and repression by Serbia.

Speaking in Tanzania, President Bush declared: "The Kosovars are now independent" - and Washington formally recognized Kosovo as an independent country soon afterward. Germany, Britain and France also gave their heavyweight backing, saying they planned to issue formal recognitions.

But Russia, Serbia's key ally, and emerging global power China remained adamantly opposed to Kosovo's independence, warning of the danger of inspiring separatist movements around the world, including in their own sprawling territories.

As veto-wielding Security Council members, Russia and China both have the power to block any attempt by Kosovo to gain a seat on the international body.

The Council met for 2 1/2 hours in New York in the second day of an emergency session on Kosovo but was unable to agree on a resolution or joint statement regarding Sunday's declaration of independence.

Serbia vowed to fight to the end against any U.N. recognition.

"The so-called Kosovo state will never be a member of the United Nations. Serbia will use all diplomatic means at its disposal to block Kosovo's recognition," said Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic.

The Kremlin was already working diplomatic levers to help Serbia achieve that aim.

Alexander Botsan-Khar-chenko, Russia's special envoy to the Balkans, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying Moscow expected U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to abide by a Security Council resolution that recognized Kosovo as part of Serbia.

Ban opened Monday's Security Council session by citing the many peaceful celebrations that accompanied Kosovo's declaration but also noting scattered violence.

He said the United Nations had achieved "peace consolidation and the establishment of functional self-government" in Kosovo, including five successful elections.

Serbian President Boris Tadic, who attended the U.N. meeting, urged the council to oppose Kosovo's move and to intervene as a last resort.

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