February 18, 2008 / 7:27 PM / 11 years ago

Serbia recalls ambassador after U.S. recognizes Kosovo

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia recalled its ambassador to the United States on Monday after Washington recognized Kosovo as independent, and said it would do the same for all countries that treat Serbia’s breakaway territory as a state.

“We ordered the urgent withdrawal of our ambassador to Washington, and his return to Belgrade, that is the government’s first urgent measure,” Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told a special session of parliament.

“This will apply to all countries that recognize Kosovo’s unilateral independence,” he said, without specifically mentioning EU states that also said they would recognize Pristina.

Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo declared independence on Sunday after almost nine years under U.N. administration.

Kostunica said the U.S. move continued the NATO aggression which began when it bombed Serbia in 1999 to expel Serb forces from Kosovo and stop a brutal crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

“We all know that this unilateral, illegal, violent and immoral proclamation of a false state on the territory of Serbia was possible only under the auspices of brutal force, of the U.S. and NATO,” he said.

“The proof is the attempt to avoid the United Nations, and the disunity among European Union member states in spite of unbearable pressure by the U.S.”

Kostunica said recognition showed the true face of Washington’s “policy of force”. He repeated accusations that the United States supported Kosovo’s independence so that it can have a “military training ground and a NATO warehouse”.

“The main goal of Serbia’s state policy is the return of Kosovo to Serbia,” he said in the address carried live on state television. “From now on, we will act to secure a free and safe life for our citizens in Kosovo.”

Some 120,000 Serbs still live in Kosovo, among 2 million Albanians. Belgrade, which has said it will not use force, has no practical chance of winning the province back.

Kostunica said an EU police and justice mission that would soon be deployed to Kosovo was illegal and represented a breach of Serbian sovereignty. Belgrade did not recognize it, and dismissed its authority.

He also appealed for calm after two days of at times violent protests in Belgrade, directed mostly at U.S. and EU embassies and businesses, some of which were vandalized.

“We must be wise and persistent and show our dignity and strength,” he said. “Serbia has to maintain stability in order to regain Kosovo.”

Reporting by Ljilja Cvekic and Ksenija Prodanovic; Writing by Ellie Tzortzi and Richard Meares

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