President Bush on Monday hailed Kosovo's bold and historic bid for statehood, saying "The Kosovars are now independent."
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership announced its independence from Serbia over the weekend, and suspense gripped the province on Monday as its citizens awaited key backing from the United States and key European powers.
"It's something that I've advocated along with my government," Bush said in an interview on NBC's "Today."
By appealing directly to the U.S. and other nations for recognition, Kosovo's independence set up a showdown with Serbia — outraged at the imminent loss of its territory — and Russia.
In an EU meeting, Paris was the first to acknowledge Kosovo's independence. France was quickly followed by Britain, Germany, Italy, and Finland. Unfortunately for Kosovo, there is no shortage of nations unwilling to recognize their independence, and Serbia isn't going to let Kosovo go without a fight.
Finland also said it would be among those recognizing too -- despite the anger of Serbia and its main backer, Russia. Turkey also recognized the territory it once ruled in Ottoman times.
Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania have indicated they too are not keen to recognize Kosovo, which confidently expects recognition from up to 100 states.
Serbia has vowed peaceful retaliatory steps and could make life even more difficult for the territory than it already is, with its 50 percent unemployment and a weak economy.
There was no shortage of protest by Serbs against the unilateral secession of the southern province, run by the United Nations and NATO for the past nine years.
Serbs protested against Kosovo's secession for a second day in Belgrade, in their Kosovo stronghold of Mitrovica, and in isolated Serb enclaves in central Kosovo. Several thousand turned out for the rallies, which remained mainly peaceful.
Serbs in the Bosnian Serb capital Banja Luka also demonstrated, shouting "Kill the Albanians! and stoning police guarding the U.S. consulate.
Hat Tip: Ace of Spades