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Kosovo celebrates a decade of independence from Serbia

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo is celebrating 10 years of independence from Serbia in two-day festivities that started Saturday around the country.

British singer Rita Ora, who was born in Kosovo before her family left the country, headlines an open-air evening concert in Pristina. The main ceremony is taking place on Sunday, when President Hashim Thaci and Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli are due back from the Munich Security Conference.

A special panel on Kosovo is scheduled to be held at the Munich conference.

Kosovo is recognized by 117 countries, including the U.S. and most Western powers, and has joined about 200 international organizations.

Serbia, which for centuries has considered Kosovo the cradle of its civilization, still sees it as part of its own territory and has the support of Russia and China.

In Serbia's capital, Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Kosovo's independence remains fragile and won't be concluded without an agreement with Serbia.

"This is one unsuccessful experiment," Dacic insisted. "This is violence against Serbia, violence against international legal order."

Kosovo declared independence on Feb. 17, 2008, nine years after NATO conducted a 78-day airstrike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians.

In Mitrovica, the centre of the Serb-dominated part of northern Kosovo, posters declaring "10 years of the occupation of Kosovo and Metohija" were put up in many places, the Kosovapress in Albania reported.

Walls in the city were covered with graffiti, the Serbian flag and a sign reading in Serbian, "Kosovo is Serbia - Crimea is Russia."

"Unfortunately, the Serb community has not made up their mind yet about this independence. Neither is Belgrade certain how they see the status of Kosovo," Mitrovica resident Branislav Krstic said.

Kosovo has taken a first step to European Union membership by signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement. But the country faces serious challenges besides its relations with Serbia, including the rule of law, unemployment, corruption and organized crime.

Five European Union members also don't recognize Kosovo's independence.


Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, and Jovana Gec in Belgrade contributed.

Sylejman Kllokoqi, The Associated Press

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