Serbia withdraws more ambassadors over Kosovo

( dpa ) - Serbia has ordered its ambassadors to Washington, London, Paris and Ankara to return to Belgrade for consultations in retaliation for recognition extended to Kosovo as an independent country, the foreign ministry in Belgrade said Monday evening.

Speaking to the Serbian assembly, which convened to "annul" Kosovo's declaration of independence on Sunday, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica accused the United States of showing the world a "bullying policy of force" by supporting the secession of Serbia's province.

In New York, Serbian President Boris Tadic denounced Kosovo's claim of sovereignty as illegal and told the United Nations Security Council that his country has been punished for the UN's failure to stop Kosovo's declaration.

Reports from Pristina said that Turkish, French, British and US representatives to Pristina had already handed in their ambassadorship credentials and notes of recognition of Kosovo to President Fatmir Sejdiu Monday evening.

Three small Baltic nations that escaped from the clutches of the Soviet Union almost two decades ago - Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia - were also gearing up to recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

Russia, which called for the special session of the UN Security Council Monday in New York, opposes Kosovo independence because of the domino affect it could have on ethnic separatist movements in its own sphere and elsewhere, and out of loyalty to Serbia.

The government of Moldova, the Romanian-speaking former Soviet republic, Monday indicated it would oppose independence. The EU is deeply divided, with Spain, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria also opposing Kosovo's move.

Slovenia, which holds the current EU presidency, has proposed that EU member states establish relations with Kosovo "as an independent state under international supervision."

The Georgian breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia announced that they would soon be following Kosovo's lead.

A protest of several thousand was held in Banja Luka, the capital of the Serb part of Bosnia. Some Bosnian Serb leaders said that if Kosovo should be allowed to split from Serbia, the Serb Republic should also be allowed to depart Bosnia.

Bosnia, torn by a war which ended in 1995 with the division along ethnic lines, remains an international protectorate to the present day.

In New York, the United States offered a friendly hand to Serbia, urging it to strengthen diplomatic ties while it pursues efforts to join the European Union.

US Ambassador Zalway Khalilzad asked Tadic to look at the future of the Balkan region as the two men attended the council meeting. Tadic had no reaction as he listened impassively to the translation from Khalilzad's English.

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