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    Kosovo's self-declared independence a historic step: Clinton

    Washington (PTI): Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, who is seeking the US presidency, has welcomed Kosovo's independence declaration as "a historic step that will allow the people of Kosovo to finally live in their own democratic state."

    "I urge our friends and allies and around the world to join the United States and European Union countries in promptly recognizing an independent Kosovo," she said.

    "It will allow Kosovo and Serbia to finally put difficult chapter in their history behind them and to move forward. Resolving this issue has taken too long and has held both of these proud peoples back from pursuing a better European and Euro-Atlantic future.

    "It is time now for all of us to look ahead and to focus on the challenge of building an independent Kosovo and supporting a democratic Serbia in an integrated Europe," the New York Senator said.

    She also said that in recognizing the independence of Kosovo high importance should be on full protection of the rights of all minorities, especially the Serbs, and to safeguard Serbian cultural and religious heritage sites there.

    "The international community must stand firm on these points," Clinton said.

    Expressing concern about the deterioration of the situation in neighbouring Bosnia and she asked the Bush Administration to pay more attention to this issue, so that it does not become a major threat to European stability.

    "I regret that is has taken so long for us to reach this historic juncture and that the Bush Administration has not always given the issues of Kosovo, Serbia's democratic future, and the Balkans the attention they deserve," she said.

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