Kosovo declares independence from Serbia

February 18th, 2008 - 12:20 am ICT by admin  

(Lead)
DPA
Pristina/Belgrade, Feb 17 (DPA) Parliament in Serbia’s breakaway province Kosovo declared independence in an emergency session Sunday. “We the leaders of our nation, democratically elected, declare Kosovo an independent, sovereign and democratic state,” the 12-point document said. All 109 of the 120 present deputies voted for it.

Hundreds of thousands of Albanians, a 90-percent majority in Kosovo, were celebrating in downtown Pristina and other Kosovo cities, but also in neighbouring Albania and Macedonia.

Kosovo now looks to the US and leading European Union countries for recognition and support. The wave of bilateral diplomatic recognitions is expected Monday and in the coming days.

The EU will shortly send a law-implementing mission to help Kosovo’s first sovereign steps, drawing a rejection from Serbia, which insists that the province remains its territory.

In Belgrade, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that independence was illegally declared on that part of Serbian soil, which is under the military control of NATO.

In an address to the nation on Serbian television RTS, Kostunica accused the US of “brutal, violation of international law for its own military interests”.

He also said Europe had “humiliated itself” by “bowing its head” to the American interests. Kostunica has been accusing NATO of long-term plans to set up a “puppet state” in Kosovo.

“Citizens of Serbia, for Serbia the false state of Kosovo on its soil does not and never will exist,” he said, announcing plans for nationwide peaceful protests, but no concrete measures.

Serbian President Boris Tadic appealed to the Serbs in Serbia and Kosovo to remain “reasonable” and promised “responsible moves” while sparing no effort to annul Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

While Western powers back Kosovo’s independence, Russia supports Serbia’s claim of property over Kosovo and has blocked Pristina’s independence bid in the United Nations in 2007.

Serbia has last week already passed a resolution annulling in advance any acts leading Kosovo to independence. The parliament in Belgrade is expected to meet Monday or Tuesday.

A 10-percent minority in Kosovo, Serbs remained calm in their enclaves.

Their spiritual leader, the Orthodox Bishop Artemije, dismissed the imminent declaration of independence as an “occupation,” but denounced violence.

“We are not calling anybody to a war,” Artemije said after prayers in the Serb enclave Gracanica, near the Kosovo capital Pristina.

“Kosovo will always remain Serbian and we regard this so-called declaration as occupation.”
DPA

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