Monday, February 18, 2008
Serbia withdrew its ambassador from Washington today after the United States joined more than a dozen European nations in recognizing the new country of Kosovo, which declared its independence from Belgrade yesterday. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said envoys also would be withdrawn from other countries that recognized the new country, which Belgrade says is illegal. Serbian President Boris Tadic asked the U.N. Security Council yesterday to stop Kosovo's independence on the principle of protecting the sovereignty and borders of its members, according to the Reuters international news service. "The United States has today formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today. "In light of the conflicts of the 1990s, independence is the only viable option to promote stability in the region." Kosovo has been essentially self-governing since 1999, when NATO bombed Serbia to force it to withdraw from the province over its treatment of ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's population. Thousands of NATO soldiers were dispatched to protect the province, and remain to this day. But Serbia vowed never to accept the independence of Kosovo, which it considers the heart of its historic civilization. With the loss of Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro are all that remain from the former Yugoslavia, which fought a brutal war against its former provinces as it broke up in the early 1990s into the countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Macedonia and Serbia. Russia and China oppose Kosovo's independence, as do Spain and other nations with separatist movements within their borders.