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Kosovo Declares Independence


Celebrations are being held in Kosovo after the parliament declared independence from Serbia. But Serbia and Russia reacted immediately to what they consider an illegal act backed by the international community. UN Security Council is meeting on Kosovo's declaration of independence, after Russia called on Council to block the move. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

People danced in the streets of Pristina, fired guns into the air and waved red and black Albanian flags in jubilation at the birth of the world's newest country: Kosovo. The chamber burst into applause after a unanimous vote approved the document proclaiming independence and parliament speaker Jakup Krasniqi declared Kosovo an independent, democratic and sovereign state.

The document was signed by Krasniqi, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and President Fatmir Sejdiu.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci declared: "The day has come and from today onwards, Kosovo is proud, independent and free."

Mr. Thaci added: "There is no room for intimidation, discrimination or unequal treatment of anyone. Our state institutions and our society will stamp out discriminatory practices. In Kosovo there will be tolerance, mutual understanding, solidarity and progress."

But Serbian President Boris Tadic immediately denounced the declaration as unilateral and illegal. Russia also rejected it and and called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

Tadic has said Serbia would do everything in its power to revoke Kosvo's declaration of independence, but added that Serbia would not use force to reclaim the breakaway province. He urged urged Serbia's political parties and the 130,000 Serbs living in Kosovo "to remain calm."

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said today, February 17, the fake country of Kosoco was illegally declared, on part of the territory, which is under NATO military control. He called it an unprecedented illegal act.

Some violence was reported after Kosovo declared its independence, but there was no significant damage. Hand grenades were thrown at buildings of the European Union and United Nations in the Kosovo-Serb stronghold city of Mitrovica. And Angry Serbs also stoned the U.S. embassy in Belgrade

The U.S., Britain, France and Germany are expected to quickly recognize Kosovo's independence. The European Union foreign policy chief said that stability in Kosovo and the whole Balkan region is essential, and urged everyone to act calmly and responsibly.

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