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After declaring independence, Kosovo looks to cautious next steps

President Bush hailed the controversial move, as the EU and UN met to form their responses.

By Staff writer, Andrew WanderContributor / February 19, 2008

Celebration: In Kosovo, fireworks followed a declaration of independence from Serbia on Sunday. The international community is at odds over the move.

Darko Bandic/AP

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PARIS; and PRISTINA, KOSOVO

For Kosovo, a peaceful declaration of independence from Serbia on Sunday brought well-mannered euphoria. But the next days may be as crucial as the long decade of waiting.

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Maybe more so: Kosovo is now "proud, independent, and free," declared Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. The last crumbs of a chocolate-vanilla cake that fed 30,000 jubilant Albanians on Mother Teresa Avenue have been eaten by flocks of blackbirds. But the tiny new state's status remains to be hashed out by great powers in Brussels, New York, Washington, and Moscow this week.

The legal basis for moving the United Nations administration out of Kosovo – and European Union forces into it – are disputed by Russia. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is in a hot spot since he will need to interpret key UN resolution 1244. The West says the resolution allows for Kosovo's independence since it plainly sets up a final status process; Moscow and Belgrade argue it doesn't.

President Bush, on an African tour, was the first to declare Kosovo independent, followed by France hours later. Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, ahead of an emergency Security Council meeting Monday, called Kosovo's declaration "null and void." It's unclear how sustained an orthodox alliance between Russia and Serbia will be.

"Now that Russia has acted out, done what it had to do to stand with Belgrade, will the US forgive Russia, downplay all this, so we can get back to our serious disagreements [with Moscow]?" asks Marshall Harris, a former US diplomat. "I hate to be an optimist on the Balkans, but I think the US and Russia will put this behind us."

Whether Serb patriots plan violence past the two grenades hurled at international offices in Mitrovica or the attacks on the US and Slovenian embassies in Belgrade Sunday is also unclear.

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