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Europe

Major EU Powers, US Recognize Kosovo Independence

The four major European powers and the majority of its other member states have said they will soon formally accept Kosovo as an independent state, following the US' lead.

The new Kosovo flag

People in Kosovo celebrated the independence of their nation with a new flag

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice congratulated the people of Kosovo on Monday on becoming the world's newest state. "As Kosovo today begins its life as an independent state, the United States pledges to continue to be its close friend and partner," she said, while also calling Serbia to reaffirm the US's ties with Serbia, an ally during two world wars.

Germany, France, Britain and Italy were among the countries that announced their intention to recognize Kosovo at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday. Spain and several other European countries have vowed not to do so.

Nevertheless, the 27 ministers managed to unite behind a statement that left each member state free to make up its mind on the issue of recognition, but authorized the European Union to use bloc funds and staff to "promote economic and political development" in Kosovo.

Germany to take step in two days' time

Wall painting saying Thanks Germany

Germany's action against Serbia in Kosovo was its first post-World War II military engagement

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters that Berlin would formally recognize the state on Wednesday and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said President Nicolas Sarkozy had written a letter of recognition which would be sent to the president of the new state on Monday.

The Danish news agendy Ritzau reported that Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said 12 to 15 EU states would also take this step on Thursday or Friday.

British foreign minister David Miliband described the move "as the last piece of the Yugoslav jigsaw." The ministers said Kosovo was a unique case because of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and did not set a precedent for other breakaway regions around the world or undermine international legal principles.

Spain, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania -- which all have concerns about the legal precedent or minority rights -- opposed an independent Kosovo.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said secession needed either the agreement of both Serbia and Kosovo, or a UN Security Council resolution to be legal.

Slovenia, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, played down the differences. The EU has already taken an important decision to help guarantee Kosovo's future. At the weekend, it launched a mission to send police, justice and administrative officials to the Balkans.

Serbia, which claims sovereignty over the territory, vowed to blockade Kosovo and launched a criminal action against its leaders for their declaration of independence. Russia, Serbia's closest ally, stopped the UN Security Council from adopting a blueprint for supervised independence last year.

Serbia said on Monday it was recalling its ambasssador to the United States after Washington recognised Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo as independent.

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