- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008

The United States formally recognized Kosovo as an independent nation today, saying “yes” to a request from the Balkan state for diplomatic ties between Pristina and Washington.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the announcement in a statement issued by her office in Washington today, just hours after President Bush signaled the move in an interview with NBC from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Mr. Bush appeared to hedge by saying, “It’s something I’ve advocated along with my government.”

However, Miss Rice said the president had “responded affirmatively” to a request for diplomatic ties from Kosovo’s government.

“We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion,” said Miss Rice, who is visiting Kenya, perhaps the most prominent African nation not included on Mr. Bush’s trip to Africa this week.

Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian province, voted yesterday to secede from Serbia, which bitterly rejected the decision along with its longtime supporter Russia.

Russia is threatening to use its veto in the U.N. Security Council to block Kosovo’s admission to the United Nations.

Miss Rice also said, “The United States takes this opportunity to reaffirm our friendship with Serbia, an ally during two world wars.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called for both Serbs and Kosovars to “refrain from any actions or statements that could endanger peace, incite violence or jeopardize security in Kosovo or the region.”

Jon Ward contributed to this report from Tanzania.

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