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Kosovo inches closer to independence

world Updated: Feb 16, 2008 18:35 IST

AFP
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Kosovo on Saturday inched closer to its historic declaration of independence, with growing sense of excitement among its people and the European Union launching a police and judicial mission to smoothen the birth of the world's newest state.

The overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian province -- still officially a part of Serbia, despite being wrested from Belgrade's control by Western powers nine years ago --is poised to break away on Sunday.

Without giving their sources, several newspapers in Pristina reported on Friday that the declaration would come around 3:00 pm (1930 IST) on Sunday to the strains of "Ode to Joy," the anthem of the European Union.

Street parties and fireworks would follow, although Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's government -- wary of backlash involving Kosovo's jittery Serb minority -- is appealing or independence to begin with "dignity".

"Everything is pointing to Sunday," a source close to Thaci's government told AFP, as Serbia all but gave up hope of hanging onto the province it regards as the cradle of its culture and Serbian Orthodox religion.

Expectations are running high in Pristina that the United States and major European nations such as Britain and France will simultaneously recognise Kosovo's independence from Monday.

In Brussels, the European Union officially launched its so-called rule of law mission to help ease Kosovo's transition to independence -- even as the bloc's 27 members were divided on how to recognise the new state.

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