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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.

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Prelates of the Serbian Orthodox church, whose monasteries dot Kosovo, called for military response, but Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has not. Mr. Bush insists the new Kosovo government make good on expanded, protective rights that connect the 120,000 Serb minorities solidly to Belgrade for years.

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EU response

Monday, EU foreign ministers in Brussels robustly affirmed its upcoming "rule of law" mission for Kosovo, though they remained sensitive to dissenting European states – including Cyprus, Romania, Spain, and Slovakia – which are worried about a separatist precedent. An EU donors conference for Kosovo, originally scheduled for March, has been pushed to June.

Le Monde, the leading French daily, yesterday called the mission "the most important [the EU] has ever decided on in the political realm of security and defense."

In Pristina, the mechanics of independence went more smoothly than many ordinary Kosovars and officials here had dared to hope. No violence was reported.

"We have been waiting for centuries for this day to come. I'm so happy that Kosovo is now the world's newest country," says Safet Haxhijaha, one of a group of men wearing T-shirts proclaiming Kosovo "The World's 193rd State."

Had it not been for the faded photographs of the Kosovo war dead hanging on the fence of the parliament building, the gaiety and conviviality would have been almost enough to help forget the brutal events that set Kosovo on the path to statehood.

"What we need now is a gigantic leap out of the Balkans and into Europe, mentally and culturally," says a longtime senior UN official here. "Both Serbs and Albanians need to stop thinking about the past, revenge, history, and focus on the future. What bodes well for Kosovo is the optimistic feel everyone had on Sunday. Kosovars even really like the new flag."

On Monday morning in Belgrade, eyewitnesses to the stoning of the US Embassy said protesters broke windows but did not go further in their tussle with Serb police. "It was not many people, about 400, and the kind of people who do this all the time, at soccer stadiums, wherever they can vent," said a long time Belgrade resident who ventured out Sunday night.

"It seems to me like an airing out, a letting out of tensions and strong emotions, that might be expected," said a former government minister contacted by phone. "But there aren't any tanks in the streets, of course, and a lot of people now think, let's be calm and smart and get on with things. Given the political tensions here, however, I truly hope the EU and US will offer some tangible help to those forces advising calmness and smartness. It would make a difference."

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