Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kosovo to declare independence ‘within hours’

KOSOVO was braced for a showdown with its former Serbian masters in Belgrade this weekend after Hashim Thaci, prime minister of the breakaway province, announced yesterday that it would declare independence “in the coming hours”.

Sources within the Serbian government gave warning that they would begin implementing an “action plan” against Kosovo as soon as it seceded.

Serbia is expected to impose an economic blockade on Kosovo, whose population is overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian, and to take diplomatic action against countries, including Britain, that recognise the new state of 2m people. There were fears in Pristina, the Kosovan capital, that Serbia might even pull the plug on electricity and water supplies.

Last week President Vladi-mir Putin of Russia, a close ally of Serbia, condemned the breakaway as “illegal, ill-conceived and immoral”.

Thaci, 39, warned against a hostile response from Belgrade. “Anything they do will come back to them like a boomerang,” he said.

In the cafes of Pristina, however, the talk was of independence parties rather than sanctions. A huge firework display was planned and the city’s main street was lined with posters thanking Britain and America for their support.

Thousands of people were expected to gather in Pristina for an open-air concert and a local bakery was providing a 1½ton Kosovo-shaped cake, complete with peace doves that would fly out when it was cut.

For many the celebrations will be tinged with sadness as they remember relatives killed or missing since a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian rebels triggered an all-out war in 1998. In Racak, south of Pristina, the deaths of 45 civilians at the hands of Serbian paramilitaries in 1999 convinced the West to intervene.

Afet Billali, 34, a former commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army, said: “I will think of my brother and friends who died. But I’ll turn this sadness into pride at their sacrifice for the sake of Kosovo’s freedom.”

In Mitrovica, celebrations will be confined to the south of the river. To the north are Koso-var Serbs who have said they will set up a parallel parliament. For them Kosovo will always be part of Serbia.

The independence declaration will begin the transfer of responsibility for law and order from the United Nations mission to a new European Union mission. Up to 600 members of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards are on standby to fly to Kosovo as part of the Nato Response Force if violence flares.


Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

Off topic--I fear I will need to replace my PC's hard drive shortly [I bought the PC new in August 2004], so don't be surprised if y'all don't hear much from me for a while. :(

capt said...


Good luck with that - maybe a new machine is in order?