U.S., European Leaders Recognize Independent Kosovo

William J. Kole and Nebi Qena in Pristina, Kosovo
Associated Press
February 18, 2008

Major European powers and the U.S. recognized Kosovo on Monday, a day after the province's ethnic Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia. Giddy Kosovars danced in the streets when they heard of the endorsements.

Kosovo's leaders sent letters to 192 countries seeking formal recognition, and Britain, France, Germany, and the U.S. were among the countries that backed the request.

But other European Union nations were opposed, including Spain, which has battled a violent Basque separatist movement for decades.

"The Kosovars are now independent," U.S. President Bush said during a trip to Africa.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Bush "has responded affirmatively" to Kosovo's request to establish diplomatic relations.

"The establishment of these relations will reaffirm the special ties of friendship that have linked together the people of the United States and Kosovo," Rice's statement said.

As word of the recognition spread, ethnic Albanians poured into the streets of the capital Pristina to cheer and dance.

New Flag, New Tensions

The republic's new flag—a blue banner with a yellow silhouette of Kosovo and six white stars representing each of the main ethnic groups —fluttered from homes and offices.

But Serb-controlled northern Kosovo was tense, with thousands demonstrating against independence and an explosion damaging a U.N. vehicle. No one was hurt.

By sidestepping the U.N. and appealing directly to the U.S. and other nations for recognition, Kosovo's independence set up a showdown with Serbia—outraged at the imminent loss of its territory—and Russia, which warned it would set a dangerous precedent for separatist groups worldwide.

Russia persuaded the U.N. Security Council to meet in emergency session Sunday in an attempt to block Kosovo's secession. The council was to meet again later Monday.

Continued on Next Page >>



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