Kosovo independence imminent

Separation from Serbia expected on Sunday, despite no official confirmation yet.

    The majority ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo
    has waited since 1999 for independence [AFP]

    After a meeting with religious leaders, Thaci appealed for celebrations to unfold with "dignity ... on the day of the declaration of independence ... a day of thanksgiving for a sovereign and independent Kosovo".

    In video

    Serbians

    pray for Kosovo

    Independence is expected to be declared at around 3pm local time (1400 GMT) on Sunday to the strains of "Ode to Joy", the anthem of the European Union, according to local news media.
     
    The breakaway Serbian has been run by a UN mission since 1999, when a Nato bombing campaign drove out forces loyal to Slobodan Milosevic, the late Serbian president, after an armed conflict with ethnic Albanian fighters.
     
    Celebrations
     
    Within an hour of Thaci's statement on Saturday, convoys of vehicles began moving through the streets of Pristina, Kosovo's main city, honking their horns and waving Albanian, British, German, Nato and US flags.
     
    Many shopkeepers festooned their windows with the Albanian flag - a black eagle on a red background.
     

    Kosovo has been run by a UN mission since
    199 after Nato bombing of Serb forces[AFP]

    Colourful posters expressed thanks to the US, Britain and the EU for supporting independence.
     
    Pristina expect the Western powers to announce their recognition of the new nation on Monday.
     
    On Friday, Kosovo's parliament convened to approve a procedure to adopt new laws that would come into effect upon independence, including measures to guarantee the safety of Serbs.
     
    For its part, the EU on Saturday launched a 2,000-member police and judicial mission to help facilitate Kosovo's transition to independence.
     
    The Eulex Kosovo mission will begin a 120-day countdown to taking over policing duties from the UN mission, which will fold up and leave.
     
    Serbs' reaction
     
    The EU, along with the World Bank, is also preparing a donors' conference for an independent Kosovo scheduled for June.
     
    In the divided northern city of Kosovoska Mitrovica, Milan Ivanovic, the Kosovo Serbs' leader, has rejected the EU police mission and predicted a public boycott.
     
    "The EU mission is not welcome. We will boycott it and use all methods of civic resistance," he said.
     
    Serbs make up 120,000 of Kosovo's 1.8 million people and they want to stay a part of  Serbia.
     
    Continued tensions
     
    Political tensions spilled over on Friday over the imminent independence declaration, with Boris Tadic, the Serbian president, saying he "will never give up fighting for our Kosovo and I will, with all my might, fight for Serbia to join the European Union".

    As he was sworn in for a second presidential term in Belgrade, Tadic said he intended to defend Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo, which his country's constitution proclaims as an "integral" part of Serbia.
     

    The joy of ethnic Albanians is tempered by
    Serbs' opposition to independence

    [AFP]
    Considered pro-Western, Tadic opposes Kosovan independence but not at the expense of Serbia's potential EU integration.
     
    Russia, a close ally of Serbia, suggested on Friday that an independence declaration will affect its policy on two separatist pro-Russian regions in former Soviet Georgia.
     
    "The declaration and recognition of the independence of Kosovo will doubtless have to be taken into account as far as the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is concerned," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
     
    The statement, released after Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, met the regions' leaders, did not say how Russia's policy towards the provinces might change.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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