February 17th, 2008 03:25 EST
Independence for Kosovo!
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has summoned parliament to a special session that will declare the province's independence from Serbia.
Lawmakers are expected to proclaim independence Sunday afternoon in the special assembly session.
Mr. Thaci, has said Sunday is a peaceful and historic day for the violence-scarred territory.
He will deliver an address Sunday evening from the main square in Kosovo's capital, Pristina. Later there will be an outdoor concert, featuring the European anthem, "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and fireworks.
Speaking Sunday during a visit to Tanzania, U.S. President George Bush said the United States will continue to work with its allies to make sure there is no violence in the territory. He added that he is heartened by the Kosovo government's proclaimed willingness to support Serbian rights.
Serbia strongly opposes independence for Kosovo, although the province has an overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian population. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is scheduled to address his nation an hour after independence is declared in Pristina.
Speaking to ethnic Serbs from Kosovo Saturday, Mr. Kostunica said Serbia will protect its citizens in Kosovo. Many Serbs from Kosovo have left their homes recently, but Mr. Kostunica says they should remain.
Authorities in Belgrade say there will be no violence, but that they will use every political measure possible to prevent recognition of Kosovo's independence.
The Serbian government has protested the European Union's decision to send an 1,800-member police and administrative mission to Kosovo. The so-called civilian peace and justice mission is to take over security tasks from the U.N. team that has administered Kosovo since 1999.
The United Nations moved into Kosovo following a Serbian crackdown on ethnic-Albanian separatists in the province, and a retaliatory bombing campaign by NATO against Belgrade and the Serbian military.
Serbia's ally, Russia, says it will call for urgent consultations by the U.N. Security Council immediately following Kosovo's breakaway.
Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.