Ethnic Albanians declare Kosovo's independence

Ethnic Albanians have today at 15:00 CET unilaterally declared independence of the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Izvor: B92

Sunday, 17.02.2008.

11:07

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Ethnic Albanians have today at 15:00 CET unilaterally declared independence of the Serbian province of Kosovo. Belgrade has reacted with a televised address to the nation by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. As expected and announced earlier this week, he declared such proclamations illegal, null and void, and rejected them, based on Serbia's right as an internationally recognized and sovereign member of the United Nations. More about the Kostunica speech in a separate article. Ethnic Albanians declare Kosovo's independence Sunday Kosovo's assembly in Pristina unanimously endorsed a unilateral declaration of independence. The declaration, read by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, said Kosovo would be a "democratic country that respected the rights of all ethnic communities." "We have waited for this day for a very long time," Thaci told parliament before reading the text, "paying tribute to those who had died on the road to independence", the BBC reported. But many of them are members of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, which official Belgrade considers a terrorist group. Thaci himself is a former member. "The independence of Kosovo marks the end of the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia," Thaci said, and added that "Kosovo was a unique case that should not set a precedent." He said it would be built in accordance with the UN plan drawn by former Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari - at the end of negotiations which did not produce a deal. The international military and civilian presence - also envisaged by the Ahtisaari plan - was welcome, he added. "There should be no fear of discrimination in new Kosovo," he said. Tens of thousands of Albanians have since taken it to the streets of Pristina to celebrate. Thaci and Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu are expected to address them later. No incidents were reported so far. Last night, Kosovo's Thaci told a local television he expected ethnic Albanians in the province to celebrate "with dignity". Albanians started their celebrations yesterday, with cars circling the streets of Pristina draped with Albanian and U.S. flags, dancing to the sound of traditional drums, and fireworks. The local police say the situation is calm, with no incidents. Thaci, who said Pristina will soon form "ministries of defense and foreign affairs" last night added that "Belgrade has the right to show interest in the Kosovo Serbs only through Kosovo's institutions." But Serbian officials, backed by Russia, have made it clear that they intend to strengthen the state's presence in the northern, Serb-populated parts of the province following a unilateral declaration of independence, in what the news agencies yesterday said will result in a de facto partition of the province. A number of Serbian cabinet ministers are also traveling to Kosovo today, to show support for the Serbs, who will almost certainly ignore proclamations from Pristina. While the United States and almost all major EU members are said to be ready to recognize such proclamation of Kosovo's independence, at least six of the Union members will not do so. At the same time, Kosovo cannot count on UN membership due to Russia's veto powers in that organization. Russia has also announced it will call an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council today. Kosovo has been administered by the UN since June, 1999, with NATO providing security. Its international and internal status was defined with the UN SC Resolution 1244. Yesterday, the EU decided to send its mission, EULEX, to replace the UN mission, UNMIK, with an initial mandate of two years. Both Belgrade and Moscow rejected this move as illegal. Kosovo Albanians celebrate unilateral declaration of independence (Beta)

Ethnic Albanians declare Kosovo's independence

Sunday Kosovo's assembly in Priština unanimously endorsed a unilateral declaration of independence.

The declaration, read by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, said Kosovo would be a "democratic country that respected the rights of all ethnic communities."

"We have waited for this day for a very long time," Thaci told parliament before reading the text, "paying tribute to those who had died on the road to independence", the BBC reported.

But many of them are members of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, which official Belgrade considers a terrorist group. Thaci himself is a former member.

"The independence of Kosovo marks the end of the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia," Thaci said, and added that "Kosovo was a unique case that should not set a precedent."

He said it would be built in accordance with the UN plan drawn by former Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari - at the end of negotiations which did not produce a deal.

The international military and civilian presence - also envisaged by the Ahtisaari plan - was welcome, he added.

"There should be no fear of discrimination in new Kosovo," he said.

Tens of thousands of Albanians have since taken it to the streets of Priština to celebrate. Thaci and Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu are expected to address them later.

No incidents were reported so far.

Last night, Kosovo's Thaci told a local television he expected ethnic Albanians in the province to celebrate "with dignity".

Albanians started their celebrations yesterday, with cars circling the streets of Priština draped with Albanian and U.S. flags, dancing to the sound of traditional drums, and fireworks. The local police say the situation is calm, with no incidents.

Thaci, who said Priština will soon form "ministries of defense and foreign affairs" last night added that "Belgrade has the right to show interest in the Kosovo Serbs only through Kosovo's institutions."

But Serbian officials, backed by Russia, have made it clear that they intend to strengthen the state's presence in the northern, Serb-populated parts of the province following a unilateral declaration of independence, in what the news agencies yesterday said will result in a de facto partition of the province.

A number of Serbian cabinet ministers are also traveling to Kosovo today, to show support for the Serbs, who will almost certainly ignore proclamations from Priština.

While the United States and almost all major EU members are said to be ready to recognize such proclamation of Kosovo's independence, at least six of the Union members will not do so. At the same time, Kosovo cannot count on UN membership due to Russia's veto powers in that organization.

Russia has also announced it will call an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council today.

Kosovo has been administered by the UN since June, 1999, with NATO providing security. Its international and internal status was defined with the UN SC Resolution 1244.

Yesterday, the EU decided to send its mission, EULEX, to replace the UN mission, UNMIK, with an initial mandate of two years.

Both Belgrade and Moscow rejected this move as illegal.

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