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After declaring independence, Kosovo looks to cautious next steps

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President Bush, on an African tour, was the first to declare Kosovo independent, followed by France hours later. Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, ahead of an emergency Security Council meeting Monday, called Kosovo's declaration "null and void." It's unclear how sustained an orthodox alliance between Russia and Serbia will be.

"Now that Russia has acted out, done what it had to do to stand with Belgrade, will the US forgive Russia, downplay all this, so we can get back to our serious disagreements [with Moscow]?" asks Marshall Harris, a former US diplomat. "I hate to be an optimist on the Balkans, but I think the US and Russia will put this behind us."

Whether Serb patriots plan violence past the two grenades hurled at international offices in Mitrovica or the attacks on the US and Slovenian embassies in Belgrade Sunday is also unclear.

Prelates of the Serbian Orthodox church, whose monasteries dot Kosovo, called for military response, but Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has not. Mr. Bush insists the new Kosovo government make good on expanded, protective rights that connect the 120,000 Serb minorities solidly to Belgrade for years.

EU response

Monday, EU foreign ministers in Brussels robustly affirmed its upcoming "rule of law" mission for Kosovo, though they remained sensitive to dissenting European states – including Cyprus, Romania, Spain, and Slovakia – which are worried about a separatist precedent. An EU donors conference for Kosovo, originally scheduled for March, has been pushed to June.

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