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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 February 2008, 16:12 GMT
Kosovo's PM in independence nod
Ethnic Albanian workers painting letters of 'Newborn' - an independence sculpture expected Sunday.
A big sculpture, reading "Newborn" is expected to be unveiled
Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has given the clearest indication yet that the province will declare independence from Serbia on Sunday.

Mr Thaci said Sunday would be another day of calm during which institutions would be engaged in "implementing the will of the citizens of Kosovo".

Nothing Belgrade could do would have an impact on developments in Kosovo, he said without confirming the move.

Hours earlier, the EU approved sending a police and justice mission to Kosovo.

The 2,000-strong mission will begin deploying to the region from next week.

It will be headed by retired French Lt Gen Yves de Kermabon, who was commander of the Nato mission in Kosovo in 2004-2005.

Veteran Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith has been appointed the EU special representative in Kosovo.

The US and most EU states are preparing to recognise Kosovo quickly, but Serbia and Russia strongly oppose the move.

KOSOVO BACKGROUND
Population: approximately two million
Majority ethnic Albanian; 10% Serb
Under UN control since Nato drove out Serbian forces in 1999
2,000 strong EU staff to take over from UN after independence
Nato troops would stay to provide security

The EU waited diplomatically until Serbia's pro-Western President Boris Tadic was sworn into office on Friday before giving the final green light for the deployment of the mission, says the BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels.

The decision was formalised by a so-called "silent procedure", under which members of the 27-nation bloc had until midnight on Friday to voice objections.

The 2,000 EU police and customs officers, judges and prosecutors are tasked with helping to prevent human rights abuses and ensure that Kosovo's fragile institutions are free from political interference.

Crucially, the mission will be able to intervene in sensitive areas such as fighting corruption and organised crime and catching war crime suspects.

While Germany and Italy are the biggest contributors, all EU members except for tiny Malta will take part, as well as non-EU countries like the United States, Turkey and Croatia.

Our correspondent says it is a clear signal to Serbia and Russia, which fiercely oppose Kosovo's independence and insist the presence of the EU there will be illegal.

Limitations

Serbia has threatened to use diplomatic and economic measures against Kosovo, though it has ruled out using force.

Hashim Thaci at a news conference on Friday
Thaci is a former guerrilla leader

The EU mission, known as EULEX, is to be deployed over four months, and is expected to take over from the United Nations by early June.

The UN has administered Kosovo since a Nato bombing campaign in 1999 drove out Serb forces.

The US and a number of EU countries, including the UK, are expected to recognise Kosovo quickly.

A UN plan on independence includes limitations on independence.

These include supervision by an international presence; limited armed forces; strong provisions for Serb minority protection; commitment to multi-ethnic democracy; and neither Kosovo nor any part of it will be allowed to join another country.

distribution of ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Revellers on the eve of independence for Kosovo



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