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UN Security Council to meet on Kosovo - diplomat UPDATE
02.17.08, 12:15 PM ET



(Adds responses to declaration)

UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Financial) - The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Sunday on Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, following a request from

Russia, diplomats said.

The session, scheduled for 1800 GMT, comes only hours after Kosovo's parliament declared the breakaway province independent despite fierce opposition from Belgrade and its ally Russia.

It caps a week of frantic UN diplomacy which failed to quell tensions over Kosovo's secession from Serbia, in which Moscow led efforts to prevent the split, warning that it might create a precedent for other ethnic secessionist movements around the world.

On Thursday the 15-member council held a closed-door meeting in New York, joined by several dozen non-council members, as Belgrade and Moscow sought to head off the move, which they say violates international law and the UN charter.

At the meeting Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said his country would never recognize independence for the disputed province, which has been under UN rule since mid-1999, after a NATO air assault drove out Serbian forces waging a brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

'Let me be clear. The Republic of Serbia shall never accept any violation of its territorial integrity,' Jeremic said.

The US, Britain and France, three veto-wielding permanent members of the council, along with Germany and Italy have supported Kosovo's move.

But in December, the council admitted that several rounds of talks seeking to bridge the gap between the two sides in 2007 had failed.

On Sunday the US called for 'restraint' in the region. Britain said it views Kosovo's declaration of independence as 'an important development' but will wait until a crucial meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday to make a formal statement.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged 'all parties' to exercise moderation, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he wished Kosovo 'good luck.'

But in Belgrade, Serbian President Boris Tadic reiterated that Serbia would never recognize Kosovo as an independent state.

And in a statement Sunday the Russian foreign ministry asked the UN mission and NATO administration in Kosovo, which has an overwhelming Albanian majority, to annul the proclamation of independence.

On Saturday ethnic Serbs in Kosovo branded a new 2,000-strong EU police and justice mission as an 'occupation.'

The mission will be fully operational after a 120-day transition period, and will essentially train and mentor police, judges and customs officials.

Serbia lodged a 'strong protest' on Saturday over the EU decision to send its mission tasked with smoothing Kosovo's transition to independence.

'The government of Serbia considers this decision ... illegal,' said a statement from the office of Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic.

'The government of Serbia explicitly opposes the arrival of the EU mission without a clear legal basis which can be given only by the UN Security Council,' it added.

tf.TFN-Europe_newsdesk@thomson.com

wj

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