DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania President Bush said Sunday the U.S. will work to prevent violent clashes following Kosovo's declaration of independence. The State Department was reviewing the development with European allies as the province sought swift recognition from the West.
"The United States will continue to work with our allies to do the very best we can to make sure there's no violence," Bush said several hours before Kosovo's parliament approved a declaration of independence from Serbia.
That vote outraged Serbia and its ally Russia, which worries the independence move sets a dangerous precedent for separatist groups worldwide. Serbia's president said his country would never accept an independent Kosovo. The U.N Security Council planned to meet in emergency session Sunday afternoon at Russia's request.
In advance of the declaration, the White House reaffirmed its support of a plan by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari that recommended granting Kosovo internationally supervised independence.
"On Kosovo, our position is that its status must be resolved in order for the Balkans to be stable," Bush said during his trip to Africa.
"Secondly, we have strongly supported the Ahtisaari plan. Thirdly, we are heartened by the fact that the Kosovo government has clearly proclaimed its willingness and its desire to support Serbian rights in Kosovo. We also believe it's in Serbia's interests to be aligned with Europe, and the Serbian people can know that they have a friend in America."
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a recorded statement after the independence declaration that the U.S. welcomed Kosovo's "clear commitment to implementing far-reaching provisions" of Ahtisaari's plan to protect ethnic minority communities. "The U.S. is now reviewing this and discussing the matter with its European partners."
He added, "We long believed that the Ahtisaari plan ... was the best way to promote regional stability and enable both Serbia and Kosovo to move forward on the Euro-Atlantic path. The United States will remain steadfast in its support for the rights of all ethnic and religious communities in Kosovo."
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, traveling with Bush, said shortly before the Kosovo parliament convened that the U.S. was aware "there are a lot of deep-rooted emotions that go with this. We are sensitive to this."
Kosovo formally had stayed a part of Serbia even though the province was administered by the U.N. and NATO since the war ended in 1999. The province is still protected by 16,000 NATO-led peacekeepers, and the alliance has boosted its patrols in hopes of discouraging violence.
In April 2007, U.N. envoy Ahtisaari recommended that Kosovo be granted internationally supervised independence. But talks that followed failed to yield an agreement between the ethnic Albanian leadership, which pushed for full statehood, and Serbia, which was willing to offer only autonomy.
With Russia, a staunch Serbian ally, determined to block the bid for independence, Kosovo has looked to the U.S. and Europe for swift recognition of its status as the continent's newest nation. That recognition was likely to come Monday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Belgium.