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President Bush Says US Will Work to Prevent Violence Surrounding Kosovo's Decision

President Bush says he will work with allies to ensure there is no violence surrounding Kosovo's expected declaration of independence from Serbia. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports the move has angered Serbia and its ally Russia, which says independence for Kosovo will set a dangerous precedent for other separatist groups.

President Bush says the United States will continue to work with its allies to do the very best it can to make sure there is no violence surrounding Kosovo's decision.

At a news conference in Tanzania, Mr. Bush was asked if he supports independence for Kosovo. The president did not answer the question directly, saying instead that the future of the province is central to regional security.

"Our position is that its status must be resolved for the Balkans to be stable," he said.

Serbia opposes independence for the predominantly ethnic Albanian province and says it will use every political measure possible to prevent recognition of Kosovo's independence.

Serbia says it will protect ethnic minority Serbs who remain in Kosovo. President Bush says he is hopeful that Kosovo's decision will not lead to further violence.

"We are heartened by the fact the Kosovo government has clearly proclaimed its willingness and its desire to support Serbian rights in Kosovo," continued president Bush. "We also believe it is in Serbia's interest to be aligned with Europe, and the Serbian people can know they have a friend in America."

Serbia is protesting the European Union's decision to send an 1,800-member police and administrative mission to Kosovo.

That force replaces a United Nations team that entered Kosovo following a Serbian crackdown on ethnic-Albanian separatists. That violence sparked a NATO bombing campaign against the Serbian military in 1999.