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Kosovo Declares Independence
February 17, 2008 15:45 GMT
(Photos from AFP and epa)
Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci declared independence in the parliament in the capital, Pristina. Reading the declaration, he said the new Kosovo will be "dedicated to peace and stability."
Thousands of Kosovar Albanians gathered outside the parliament to hear the declaration of independence.
Pristina is awash with flags, draped from buildings and waved out of car windows. Hundreds of ethnic Albanian emigres streamed back to Kosovo for the independence weekend.
In the capital, a Kosovar Albanian man wears a T-shirt reading "Bye Bye Serbia." The authorities are offering a 72-hour cultural program and many bars are laying on free drinks.
But there have also been security fears. In the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, French soldiers reinforce their checkpoint with concrete blocks. Kosovo's security remains dependent on the 16,000 NATO troops stationed there, known as KFOR.
Representatives of Kosovo's Serbian minority in Mitrovica discuss future steps ahead of the declaration on February 15. Across the province, Serbs have held prayers and protests against the secession, which Serbia has called illegal.
Hadzi Andrej Milic, the leader of the St. Tsar Lazar Guard, a Serbian paramilitary organization. In recent days, his group has blocked traffic on the border between Serbia and Kosovo.
In Pristina, posters with British and U.S. flags read "Thank You." The United States and major European Union countries are expected to recognize the new state.
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