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  Kosovo Declares Its Independence From Serbia Andrew Testa for The New York Times People signed the back of a sculpture, reading “Newborn” in English, at its unveiling on Sunday in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. More Photos > Twitter Linkedin Sign In to E-Mail or Save This Print Reprints Share By DAN BILEFSKY Published: February 18, 2008 PRISTINA, Kosovo —  The province of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Sunday, sending tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians streaming through the streets to celebrate what they hoped was the end of a long and bloody struggle for national self-determination. Timeline: Kosovo Steps Toward Self-Determination Multimedia Kosovo Declares IndependencePhotographs Kosovo Declares Independence Endgame in KosovoAudio Slide Show Endgame in Kosovo  Related Times Topics: Kosovo | Serbia Blogrunner: Reactions From Around the Web Enlarge This Image Damir Sagoli/Reuters Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci, left, shaking hands with President Fatmir Sejdiu in Parliament on Sunday. More Photos » Enlarge This Image Dimitar Dilkoff/Agence France-Presse —  Getty Images People in Pristina gathered in the streets to celebrate. Some waved flags, danced in jubilation and fired guns in the air. More Photos > Enlarge This Image Marko Drobnjakovic/Associated Press Police officers in Belgrade, Serbia, carried away an injured colleague during clashes outside the United States Embassy. More Photos > Kosovo’s bid to be recognized as Europe’s newest country —  after a civil war that killed 10,000 people a decade ago and then years of limbo under United Nations rule —  was the latest episode in the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia, 17 years after its dissolution began. It brings to a climax a showdown between the West, which argues that Serbia’s brutal subjugation of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority cost it any right to rule the territory, and the Serbian government and its allies in the Kremlin. They counter that Kosovo’s independence is a reckless breach of int ernational law that will spur other secessionist movements across the world.  As Albanians danced in the streets and fired guns in the air in the capital, Pristina, international reaction was sharply divided, suggesting that the clash between the principles of sovereignty and self-determination was far from resolved. Britain, France and Germany were expected to be the first to recognize the new nation as early as Monday, while other nations, fearing separatist movements within their own borders, have said they will refuse. Russia demanded an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to proclaim the declaration “null and void,” but the meeting produced no resolution.  The United States and additional European Union member states were expected to recognize Kosovo’s independence in the coming days. President Bush, speaking in Tanzania, said the United States would continue to work to prevent violence in Kosovo, while reaching out to Serbia. He said that resolving the conflict in Kosovo was essential to stability in the Balkans and that “the Serbian people can know that they have a friend in America.”   In declaring independence, Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci, a former leader of the guerrilla force that just over 10 years ago began an armed rebellion against Serbian domination, struck a note of reconciliation. Addressing Parliament in both Albanian and Serbian, he pledged to protect the rights of Kosovo’s Serbian minority. “I feel the heartbeat of our ancestors,” he said. “We, the leaders of   our people, democratically elected, through this declaration proclaim Kosovo an independent and sovereign state.”  Kosovo, a desperately poor, predominantly Muslim landlocked territory of two million, has been a United Nations protectorate since 1999, policed by 16,000 NATO troops. Its unemployment rate is about 60 percent and average monthly wage is $250. Electricity is so undependable that lights go out in the capital several times a day. Corruption is rife and human trafficking threatens to entrench a lawless state on Europe’s doorstep.  Ethnic Albanians from as far away as the United States poured into Pristina over the weekend, braving freezing temperatures and heavy snow to dance in frenzied jubilation. Beating drums, waving Albanian flags and throwing firecrackers, they chanted: “Independence! Independence! We are free at last!”     A 100-foot-long birthday cake was installed on Pristina’s main boulevard.   In an outpouring of adulation for the United States, the architect of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against Serbian forces under President Slobodan Milosevic, revelers unfurled giant American flags, carried post ers of former President Bill Clinton and chanted, “Thank you, U.S.A.” and “God bless America.”  Hundreds of people, many waving Albanian flags, celebrated in Times Square. Revelers in cars drove in circles around the area, leading chants whenever they passed the crowds gathered on the sidewalks. That spirit of exaltation contrasted sharply with the despair, anger and disbelief that gripped Serbia and the Serbian enclaves of northern Kosovo. In Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, as many as 2,000 angry Serbs converged on the United States Embassy, hurling stones and smashing windows. In the Kosovo Serb stronghold of Mitrovica, a grenade was thrown at a United Nations building, the police said. No one was injured. Vojislav Kostunica, the prime minister of Serbia, which has regarded Kosovo as its heartland since medieval times, vowed that Serbia would never recognize the “false state.”  In an address on national television on Sunday, he said Kosovo was propped up unlawfully by the United States and called the declara tion a “humiliation” for the European Union. The Serbian government has ruled out using military force in response, but was expected to downgrade diplomatic ties with any government that recognized Kosovo. Demonstrations were planned for Monday in Serbian enclaves across Kosovo. Serbs said they were under orders from Belgrade to ignore the independence declaration and remain in Kosovo to keep the northern part of the territory under de facto Serbian control, raising questions about Serbia’s long -term aims.
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