Serbian president heads to UN after Kosovo independence claim

February 18th, 2008 - 1:00 pm ICT by admin  

Pristina/Belgrade/New York, Feb 18 (DPA) Serbian President Boris Tadic was heading for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council Monday as the dust continued to settle on Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Belgrade. Russia, which backs Serbia’s claim to Kosovo, called for the meeting shortly after Kosovo’s assembly unanimously passed the independence declaration Saturday.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called on the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which has supervised Kosovo’s uneasy stance since the NATO bombing in 1999, to declare Kosovo’s independence illegal.

Although Kosovo’s independence proclamation was long expected, the move brought few immediate formal recognitions of nationhood from foreign capitals.

The US, Britain and some European countries have backed a UN plan for internationally supervised independence. The US Sunday urged both sides in Kosovo to avoid provocations and pledged to support Serb minority rights.

Asked early Sunday about Kosovo’s independence before the actual declaration, Bush, who is travelling in Africa, told reporters in Tanzania that Kosovo’s status “must be resolved in order for the Balkans to be stable” and reassured Serbia’s people that “they have a friend in America.”

The presidents of Georgia’s breakaway provinces Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia said they were planning similar independence initiatives, delivering fuel to Russia’s argument that Kosovo’s independence will spread a contagious and dangerous wave of ethnic separatism across Europe.

Fireworks illuminated the sky above Pristina Sunday night, and die-hard enthusiasts celebrated well into the cold night with concerts and street dancing. The echo went round the world, with ethnic Albanians celebrating at Times Square in New York, Vienna, Macedonia and Montenegro.

In mirror image, angry protests lasted well into the night in Serbia’s capital Belgrade. More than 65 people were injured and taken to hospital, the half of them police officers and journalists.

Protestors targeted the US and Slovenian embassies, and demonstrators clashed with police outside the Albanian embassy. Strong police protection encircled the city’s mosques.

Kosovo would be the sixth state carved from the Serb-dominated federation since 1991, after Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

Kosovo has been run by the UN since mid-1999, after a NATO air assault drove out Serbian forces waging a brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanian guerrillas and their civilian supporters.

Belgrade has signalled its intention to impose political, diplomatic and economic sanctions on Kosovo if it declared independence. Serbia’s National Assembly already voted to call any Kosovo breakaway null and void.

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