Islamic states bloc welcomes Kosovo independence

RIYADH Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:27am EST

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RIYADH (Reuters) - The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has welcomed Kosovo's declaration of independence, saying it would be an asset to the Muslim world.

"Kosovo has finally declared its independence after a long and determined struggle by its people. As we rejoice in this happy result, we declare our solidarity with and support to our brothers and sisters there," Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the head of the OIC, said at the opening of a meeting in Dakar on Monday.

"The Islamic (nation) wishes them success in the new battle awaiting them, which is the building of a strong and prosperous state capable of satisfying its people. There is no doubt that the independence of Kosovo will be an asset to the Muslim world and further enhance joint Islamic action," he said in comments sent to Reuters.

Kosovo Albanians declared independence on Sunday, the latest drama in the tortuous break-up of Serb-dominated Yugoslavia that began nearly two decades ago. Most Albanians are Muslims.

The majority Albanian territory, once ruled as a part of Serbia, has been under United Nations supervision since 1999, when NATO bombing forced a withdrawal of Serb forces that had been attacking Albanians in the province.

China, Russia, Spain, Serbia and other countries have opposed the move, some saying it will encourage separatism.

(Reporting by Lin Noueihed, Editing by Michael Winfrey)

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