Serbia under Pressure Balkan Nations Recognize Independent Kosovo

A month after Kosovo declared unilateral independence from Serbia, three Balkan neighbors -- Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary -- are set to recognize Kosovo's independence. The UN has also accused Serbia of complicity in violence on Monday that injured scores of people.

NATO troops returned on Wednesday to the town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo after retreating on Monday following bloody clashes with Serb protestors.

NATO troops returned on Wednesday to the town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo after retreating on Monday following bloody clashes with Serb protestors.

Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia gained legitimacy among some of its eastern European neighbors Wednesday, as Croatia and Hungary announced their recognition of Kosovo as an independent country.

Bulgaria, in a joint statement with the other two Serbian neighbors, said it would recognize Kosovo on Thursday. The three nations wrote that Kosovo should "provide guarantees for a multiethnic state." Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17 despite fierce opposition from Belgrade and from Kosovo's ethnic Serb minority.

The announcement drew immediate criticism from the Serbian government. "Every country that decides to recognize the illegally declared state of Kosovo breaches international law," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Wednesday during a visit to Athens, Greece. He urged Greek officials not to follow Croatia and Hungary in recognizing Kosovo's independence.

Also on Wednesday, the UN accused Serbian officials of complicity in violence Monday in Mitrovica in northern Kosovo that left a UN policeman from Ukraine dead and dozens of people hurt.

Larry Rossin, a UN administrator for Kosovo, told the Associated Press that Serbia’s government did not use its influence to prevent ethnic Serbs in Kosovo from starting the attacks, which injured more than 60 members of the United Nations and NATO forces and 70 Kosovo Serb protesters. It was the worst violence in Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia. NATO forces returned to Mitrovica, which is divided into ethnic Serb and ethnic Albanian parts, on Wednesday.

The UN accusation was echoed by liberal members of a pro-Western party within the Serbian government. "We sharply condemn the state policies which seek to cover its own defeat and loss of Kosovo by pushing the (Kosovo) Serbs into violence," read a statement from the Liberal Democratic Party.

Serbian officials loyal to caretaker Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica have blamed the violence in Kosovo on the international troops. On Wednesday, Serbian President Boris Tadic also demanded a full investigation into the violence.

The unrest has also highlighted a deep rift over Kosovo policy between pro-Western and nationalist groups in Serbia that are vying for power in the May 11 parliamentary vote. The election was called after the government collapsed in divisions over Kosovo's independence and Serbia's relationship to the European Union.



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