The European Parliament has overwhelmingly endorsed a United Nations plan giving Kosovo supervised independence from Serbia.
Thursday's move lends official European backing for the plan for the eventual independence sought by Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians. The plan is bitterly opposed by Belgrade, and its principle ally, Russia.
Before the vote, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the planned 2,000-strong EU mission to Kosovo will be the largest such deployment in EU history.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov predicted the plan, presented by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, will fail because it does not consider Belgrade's demand that Kosovo remain part of Serbia. Lavrov's comments are the latest in a series of Russian attacks on the plan. Russia has threatened to veto the plan in any Security Council vote.
The council is to consider the U.N. plan next week.
Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999, when NATO airstrikes halted Belgrade's deadly crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in the province.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.