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16 Feb, 2008 00:50

Serb soldiers flex muscles on Army Day

Kosovo is threatening to declare unilateral sovereignty on Sunday. Serbian authorities have ruled out the use of force in stopping the independence movement, but say they will use every possible diplomatic and political tool to protect their territorial i

Some of them still remember the 78-day bombing campaign against Serbia in 1998-99. Back then the Serbs were driven out of Kosovo by NATO planes and bombs, accused of waging a crackdown on Albanian separatists.

The province went under the UN supervision and received “substantial autonomy” within the Serbian state under the resolution 1244.

But ten years ago few envisaged Kosovo as an independent country. Although more than 90 per cent of Kosovo’s two million people are ethnic Albanians, the province has been legally part of Serbia since 1912.

Today with Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence looming over Serbia within days, these military exercises may be seen in a different light. But Serbia promises not to use force against its breakaway province.

“We have a very good army and we are ready to act really, but I think that the people who live in this country, the decision makers won’t make any wrong decisions. I still believe there are possibilities to negotiate. I do not believe that were going to have any military actions,” said Dragan Sutanovac, Serbian Defence Minster.

On Friday Brussels said the EU would leave it to individual states to decide whether to recognise Kosovo. Serbia, backed by Russia, denounces it as a violation of international law.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said Serbia won’t wage war but it is going to analyse its bilateral relations with the countries that are going to recognise Kosovo as an independent country.

Serbian government threatened to impose an economic embargo on Kosovo and diplomatic reprisals against countries that recognise the new state.

“We will consider as null and void any declaration of independence,” said Bozidar Djelic, Serbian Government Vice President.