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Bush Backs NATO Membership For Kosovo, Serbia

Presidents Sejdiu (left) and Bush on July 21
WASHINGTON -- The president and the prime minister of Kosovo met with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on July 21 for talks that included a discussion of the challenges of a newly independent state.

Bush, whose administration is among the roughly 40 governments to have recognized the largely ethnically Albanian province's declaration of sovereignty on February 17, assured Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and President Fatmir Sejdiu that their new will be acknowledged by many states.

"We discussed the problems that Kosovo faces, its desire to be recognized by more nations around the world," Bush said. "I pledged that the United States would continue to work with those nations that have not recognized an independent Kosovo to convince them to do so as quickly as possible."

On July 18, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that more than two-thirds of the countries in the European Union and NATO had recognized Kosovo, which spent nearly a decade under UN administration prior to its bid for sovereignty.

At their meeting in Washington, Bush praised the Kosovar government's support of minority rights -- namely those of ethnic Serbs who live in the predominantly ethnic-Albanian country.

Despite Serbia's resistance to Kosovo's independence, Bush said the U.S. government supports the accession of both Kosovo and Serbia to NATO.

"We talked about economics, education, and we talked about the trans-Atlantic aspirations of both Kosovo and Serbia, which the United States supports in both cases," Bush said.

Sejdiu, speaking through an interpreter, said Kosovo is a country "of all its citizens," and pledged that while he is president, minority rights will be respected.

For his part, Thaci thanked Bush for his country's support of Kosovo's independence, and said the two countries would be close friends forever.