U.S. recognizes independent Kosovo

(CNN) -- The United States officially recognized Kosovo -- the Balkan state which split from Serbia on Sunday -- as an independent nation on Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a written statement.

"We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion," Rice said.

"President Bush has responded affirmatively to a request from Kosovo to establish diplomatic relations between our two countries."

European Union nations Monday were also starting to individually recognize Kosovo as the world's newest nation -- but had not agreed collectively on the way forward.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "Britain will now formally recognize Kosovo as an independent sovereign state."

France said it would recognize Kosovo, and is in the process of confirming that in writing. Germany indicated its support would come.

But other EU nations including Greece, Spain and Romania have signaled that they would not follow suit amid concerns about the precedent that such a move would set.

Spain -- where militants wanting a separate Basque nation have carried out a 30-year campaign of violence -- said it did not consider Kosovo's independence to be lawful.

Two pro-Russian separatist provinces in Georgia -- South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- were looking to use Kosovo's move to help them declare their own independence.

But the U.S. and EU say that Kosovo's move is not the precursor for a wave of declarations of independence.

Rice said:
"The unusual combination of factors found in the Kosovo situation -- including
the context of Yugoslavia's breakup, the history of ethnic cleansing and crimes
against civilians in Kosovo, and the extended period of U.N. administration --
are not found elsewhere and therefore make Kosovo a special case. Kosovo cannot
be seen as a precedent for any other situation in the world today."
Facing severe economic problems and high unemployment, Kosovo is banking on the support of Western powers including the United States and key EU nations. Fireworks, parties but a long road ahead »

But while independence is broadly favored by the West, U.N. Security Council members Russia and China have expressed outright opposition and "grave concern" over Kosovo's unilateral decision.

Serbia insists it will not respond with violence to Kosovo's sovereignty claim, although it refuses to recognize the move.

In the Serb-dominated northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica, scores of Kosovo Serbs took to the streets waving Serbian flags in a demonstration against independence.

In Beijing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao expressed grave concern over Kosovo's move for independence. Russia was also standing with its traditional ally, Serbia.
The Security Council is meeting Monday to discuss Kosovo and Serbian president Boris Tadic is expected to emphasize his country's opposition to Kosovo's breakaway. Watch how U.N. is divided over Kosovo's future »

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said his country will never accept the establishment of a "false country" on its territory.

Fireworks lit the skies and crowds filled the streets of Kosovo's capital Sunday after the territory's parliament declared independence from Serbia.

But Serbs consider the territory the cradle of their civilization, and protesters clashed with police outside the U.S. Embassy in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, as the declaration was issued. Flag burned in Serb region of Kosovo »

Fatmir Sejdiu, Kosovo's president, said Monday: "We have lots of things that we need to start and finish, we need continuous work and commitment and we are fully dedicated toward fulfilling the promises to improve our state."

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci opened Monday his first cabinet meeting since the parliament declared independence saying: "My full respect goes to you here and especially to our people that they celebrated in such a dignified manner."

The province has been under U.N. administration and patrolled by NATO troops since a 1999 bombing campaign that halted a Serb-led campaign against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.
About 100,000 Serbs still live in Kosovo, making up about 5 percent of the population. Sejdiu pledged to create a nation "where all citizens of all ethnicities feel appreciated."

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