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    Russia vows to block intl. recognition of Kosovo independence

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    Russia will try and block Kosovo's independence at an international level, if the Serb province announces its sovereignty, a senior Russian MP said on Monday.

    MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will try and block Kosovo's independence at an international level, if the Serb province announces its sovereignty, a senior Russian MP said on Monday.

    "Russia should use every opportunity at its disposal to block Kosovo's admission to the UN as an independent state," said Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the international affairs committee at the lower house of Russia's parliament. "As for the OSCE, it operates on the basis of consensus, so Russia will also be able to block a decision on Kosovo's admission to the OSCE."

    Asked whether the problem of Kosovo's self-proclaimed independence could be considered at the European Council, he said: "Hypothetically, such a decision could be made, but I suppose that would be extremely deplorable for the Council of Europe, since it would be taking a political stance, which is inappropriate for this organization."

    He also said Russia would review the principles of its relations with other self-proclaimed republics should Kosovo declare independence.

    "If Kosovo proclaims its independence - and there is little doubt it will - this will influence Russia's approach toward developing relations with other self-proclaimed republics," the MP said.

    He said responsibility for the development of the situation around Kosovo "is entirely and completely borne by the U.S. and EU," suggesting that the decision on the province's independence would be made in Washington and Brussels, not in Pristina.

    Serbia's pro-Western incumbent Boris Tadic was narrowly re-elected as president Sunday in a vote seen as a key test of the country's relations with Europe.

    Tadic competed with nationalist challenger Tomislav Nikolic in Sunday's run-off, and with 99.8% of ballots counted, has garnered 50.57% against Nikolic's 47.71%, according to the Electoral Commission.

    The European Union's presidency holder, Slovenia, released a statement welcoming Tadic's re-election, and saying his endorsement would "accelerate its progress toward the EU, including candidate status."

    The vote has come at a tense time for the Balkan nation, with its breakaway province of Kosovo set to unilaterally declare its independence within weeks.

    The European Union said in late January it would sanction the dispatch of a police force to the province after the country's presidential election.

    The 27-nation bloc plans to send a 1,800-strong mission, including legal experts and police, to the Albanian-dominated region, which is expected to unilaterally declare its independence within weeks.

    The EU is anxious to deploy the force before the province declares its sovereignty. The new mission to be reinforced by a NATO contingent is expected to replace a UN mission deployed in the region since the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Albanian and Serb forces in 1999.

    Moscow continues to press for a compromise on the issue, saying Kosovo will never be a fully recognized state.

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