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Kosovo Moves Toward Independence, While a Crisis Shakes Timor

Ethnic Albanians prepare to cut the world's newest country out of Serbia. In East Timor, troops search for suspected rebels after attacks on that young nation's leaders. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Kosovo is expected to declare its independence from Serbia in the coming days, possibly on Sunday.

Serbia's newly re-elected President Boris Tadic says he will never give up his fight for Kosovo, but will also fight for Serbia to join the European Union.

He said Friday that Serbia would reduce diplomatic relations, but not cut ties, with countries that recognize an independent Kosovo.

Kosovo's leader, Hashim Thaci, is calling on displaced Serbs living outside Kosovo to return.

Serbia and its chief ally, Russia, say Kosovo's independence will lead to separatist efforts by other dissatisfied territories across the world.

Serbia has offered self-rule for Kosovo, which it considers an important part of its history and territory. Yet Serbia has not controlled the southern province since nineteen ninety-nine. That was when NATO bombed the former Yugoslavia until Yugoslav military leaders agreed to withdraw troops from Kosovo.

About two million people live there. Ninety percent are ethnic Albanian. The area is currently administered by the United Nations and policed by sixteen thousand NATO-led peacekeepers.

The United States and most European countries support independence. Once Kosovo acts, the European Union plans to take over many of the administrative duties now held by the United Nations. Serbia and Russia say that plan is illegal.

In March of two thousand four there was violence mainly against ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. That led, almost two years later, to the opening of international negotiations on Kosovo. Finally, in December, the United Nations Security Council declared itself in hopeless disagreement.

As Kosovo prepares to become the world's newest country, the six-year-old nation of East Timor struggles with a crisis. Foreign troops are searching for suspected rebels after attacks against its leaders.

On Monday, president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta was shot twice and seriously wounded. Gunmen later shot at Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao but he escaped unhurt.

Wanted rebel leader Alfredo Reinado died in a gunfight with guards during the attack at the president's home in Dili, the capital. He escaped from prison after being found guilty of inciting clashes between government forces and former rebels in two thousand six.

East Timor, or Timor-Leste, is a former province of Indonesia, and one of the world's poorest countries. On Wednesday the government of the young democracy extended a state of emergency for ten days.

Australia has more than one thousand soldiers and police there, including extra forces sent after the shootings. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd briefly visited Dili Friday. He later visited President Ramos-Horta at a hospital in Darwin, Australia.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake.