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Kosovo and Serbia launch rival diplomatic offensives

PRISTINA/BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia and Kosovo both said they would launch diplomatic offensives Friday over independence for Kosovo, a day after the World Court said its 2008 secession from Serbia did not violate international law.

Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic (C ) answers questions from the international media on the steps of the International Court of Justice in The Hague July 22, 2010. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

In a major blow to Serbia’s attempts to hang on to the breakaway territory, the International Court of Justice in The Hague-based said in a non-binding ruling that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was not against international law.

In response, the Serbian government held an emergency session Friday and pledged to step up its diplomatic efforts to stop more countries recognizing of Kosovo as a state.

Kosovo meanwhile said it would renew its global campaign to lobby more countries than the 69 at present to recognize its sovereignty and help it secure membership of the United Nations.

“We have prepared letters asking governments to recognize Kosovo’s statehood and will start sending them from today via mail, e-mail and fax,” said Kosovo Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Albana Beqiri. “The court’s decision was so clear that now there is no reason for not recognizing us.”

Serbia said it would send envoys to 55 countries to deliver a personal message from President Boris Tadic calling for support in its diplomatic efforts. Ambassadors in another 40 capitals will do the same, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said.

“I am personally going to address representatives of non-aligned countries in New York next week,” Jeremic told a news conference.

Jeremic warned the ICJ ruling would boost secessionist movements across the world.

“Pandora’s box is open,” he said. “Maybe the majority of the United Nations member states will be in favor of the secession (of Kosovo) but in that case we will live in a very different world and different region. I don’t think this will happen.”

Serbia could risk progress toward its goal of joining the European Union if it maintains its defiance on Kosovo, blocking Pristina’s membership of regional bodies and stopping goods and people with Kosovo documents from entering its territory.

Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 when NATO bombed it to halt the killing of ethnic Albanians in a two-year war.

After nine years as international protectorate, Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority, backed by the United States and most EU member states, declared independence in 2008, but Serbia vowed never to accept it.

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said Belgrade remains open to more talks about Kosovo’s final status, something Pristina has adamantly rejected, following abortive UN-sponsored, Vienna-based negotiations in 2006-2007.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci and Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Jon Hemming