Kosovo Prepares to Declare Independence

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo, the separatist province of Serbia, is making nervous preparations for a
declaration of independence on Sunday: “Independence is ready,” says a government poster.

Sunday is thought the most likely delcaration day because it is followed by a national holiday in the United States to mark President’s Day. This timing could stop Russia, which opposes independence, from immediately calling an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council in New York, which it would have to do within an unofficial three-hour time limit.

Such immediate high-level opposition could easily fuel disorder and violence, with the Albanian majority eager to have as uncomplicated a national birthday celebration as possible. The government has banned large gatherings, fearing they could get out of hand.

Independence parties are restricted to ones which can be thrown together at short notice, mostly in private homes and bars. Some bars have been inviting patrons to celebrate for weeks, while one hotel is offering a 25 percent discount for the nationals of any country which gives recognition.

Serbia, meanwhile, is planning to withdraw its ambassadors from any country recognizing Kosovo.
Having symbolically returned to Belgrade they will return to their host countries as “chargé d’affaires.”

Zdravko Panos, the chief of the general staff of the Serbian army told Blic, a Serbian newspaper, that
the army had no orders to mobilize.