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Kosovo prepares for first independence day

PRISTINA, Kosovo (CNN) — Kosovo’s parliament meets Sunday afternoon to officially declare the province’s independence from Serbia, a move opposed by Serbia and Russia but supported by many western governments.

CNN’s Alessio Vinci, reporting from the Kosovar capital Pristina, said that the plan is for Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci to read out the independence declaration, which is written in Albanian, Serbian and English, to parliament before lawmakers pass it unanimously.

Vinci added that Kosovo’s Albanian population were already singing and dancing in the streets as well as lighting firecrackers ahead of the much anticipated vote. It’s been like this for several hours now, he said.

President George Bush said Sunday that Kosovo’s status must be resolved before the Balkans can become stable and that the United States supports the Ahtisaari plan which calls for a form of supervised independence.

The European Union decided Saturday to launch a mission of about 2,000 police and judicial officers to replace the United Nations mission that has been controlling the province since the end of the war with Serbia in 1999.

Kosovo has been under U.N. supervision and patrolled by a NATO-led peacekeeping force since the end of the three-month war, in which NATO warplanes pounded Serbia to roll back a campaign of ethnic cleansing of the province’s Albanian population under former then-President Slobodan Milosevic.

The disputed province is dear to the Serbs, Orthodox Christians who regard it as Serbian territory. But it is equally coveted by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians, Muslims who have a 90 percent majority, and two years of talks on its final status ended in failure last December.

Its status must be resolved in order for the Balkans to be stable, President Bush told reporters during a news conference in Tanzania Sunday.

Bush said the Ahtisaari plan — named after former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari — is the best option. The proposal would give Kosovo limited statehood under international supervision.

President Bush added that it’s in Serbia’s interest to be aligned with Europe and the Serbian people can know that they have a friend in America. Watch the changing political climate in the Balkans

We are heartened by the fact that the Kosovo government has clearly proclaimed its willingness and its desire to support Serbian rights in Kosovo, Bush said.

Thaci said Thursday he would establish a new government office for minorities and it would protect the rights of minorities after the province declares independence.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic has promised his country will refrain from using force against Kosovo after independence, though he has warned that Serbia will take punitive diplomatic, political, and economic measures against the province.

Russia — Serbia’s historic ally — has remain opposed to Kosovo’s independence. Russia, which has fought two wars against separatist rebels in its southwestern republic of Chechnya, has Monday that U.S. and European support for Kosovo’s independence could lead to an uncontrollable crisis in the Balkans.

The EU said Saturday that around 1,900 international police officers, judges, prosecutors and customs officials and approximately 1,100 local staff will be based in headquarters in Pristina or located throughout the judicial and police system in Kosovo.

The EU mission’s objective is to support the Kosovo authorities by monitoring, mentoring and advising on all areas related to the rule of law, in particular in the police, judiciary, customs and correctional services, it said.

In 1999 the international, NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) began providing security for the Serbian province.

KFOR is fully determined to maintain a safe and secure environment for the times to come. KFOR is almost fully deployed and we will still increase our level of activities for the next couple of days, said Lt. Gen. Xavier Bout de Marnhac, KFOR commander.

I just want to state very strongly that KFOR will react and will oppose any kind of provocation that might happen during these days, wherever they come from — either from the Albanian or the Serbian side. And we will react very strongly to any kind of those provocations, he said Saturday.
Kosovo prepares for first independence day – found here.

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February 17, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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