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Protesters torch Kosovo border posts

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  • Angry Serbs torch a checkpoint between Serbia and Kosovo
  • Bush says recognizing Kosovo will "bring peace" to a region scarred by war
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(CNN) -- Angry Serbs torched checkpoints between Serbia and Kosovo and triggered explosions Tuesday to protest Kosovo's independence declaration and international recognition of the breakaway state.

Border crossings in northern Kosovo, staffed by U.N. and Kosovo's multiethnic police and customs service, were set on fire by Kosovo Serbs as a symbol of their desire to rejoin Serbia.

The U.S. and some European Union nations were among the first to recognize Kosovo's sovereignty, but other world powers including Russia and China have opposed the secession, warning of a return to conflict in the region.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was heading to Kosovo on Tuesday where he is scheduled to meet President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. "The mission will provide an opportunity to discuss the latest developments," his office said.

Meanwhile, Serbia stepped up its actions against independence by appealing to Organization for Security and Cooperation to condemn Kosovo's declaration of independence, The Associated Press reported.

U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday justified recognizing Kosovo as an independent nation, saying that doing so will bring peace to a region scarred by war.

"History will prove this to be a correct move to bring peace to the Balkans," he told reporters in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

The recognition "presents an opportunity to move beyond the conflicts of the past and toward a future of freedom and stability and peace," he said.

The declaration by Kosovo's government on Sunday sparked widespread celebration from its majority of ethnic Albanians, but its minority Serb population still generally wants to be part of Serbia.

In the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica, divided between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, tensions have continued to mount.

Overnight, three loud explosions shook Kosovska Mitrovica, one of the blasts damaging several cars near a U.N. building, while two other hand grenade explosions hitting deserted and already destroyed homes belonging to ethnic Albanians who fled this Serb stronghold after the 1999 war. No injuries were reported. Video Watch flames ravage border posts. »

The U.S. move to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation prompted Serbia to pull its ambassador to the United States and warn other countries that recognize Kosovo that diplomatic action would be taken.

Other nations, such as Spain, Russia and China, have expressed concern that recognition of Kosovo's independence from Serbia would give momentum to secessionist movements in their own countries.

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Two pro-Russian separatist provinces in Georgia -- South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- were looking to use Kosovo's move to declare their own independence.

And the Moldovan separatist region of Trans-Dniester said Tuesday Kosovo's independence showed "a new way of resolving conflicts all around the world," AP reported quoting the Olvia state news agency reported.

Serbian President Boris Tadic on Monday asked the U.N. Security Council to annul Kosovo's declaration of independence, saying "Imagine you were in my place -- the president of a country, which has been deprived of a territory against its will.

"If you cast a blind eye to this illegal act, who guarantees to you that parts of your countries will not declare independence in the same way?"

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday called the situation "a special case," citing "the unusual combination of factors found in the Kosovo situation -- including the context of Yugoslavia's breakup, the history of ethnic cleansing and crimes against civilians in Kosovo, and the extended period of U.N. administration."

European Union foreign foreign ministers agreed but said they were deferring to individual states to handle the question of recognition.

After a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday, Britain and France said they would recognize the new state, Germany indicated it would in time but Spain -- which has its own militant separatists -- called Kosovo independence illegal.

Serbs consider the territory the cradle of their civilization. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched a crackdown against an ethnic Albanian independence insurgency led by Thaci in 1998, and refused to yield to Western pressure to halt the campaign.


When NATO responded by launching airstrikes against Serbia and Montenegro, the last remaining Yugoslav republics, Yugoslav troops adn Serbian paramilitaries drove hundreds of thousands of Kosovars out of the region and killed thousands more.

Milosevic died in 2005 while awaiting trial for war crimes before a U.N. tribunal in The Hague. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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