WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The United States Monday formally recognized Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia Sunday.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a written statement congratulating "the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion."
"President Bush has responded affirmatively to a request from Kosovo to establish diplomatic relations between our two countries," the statement said. "The establishment of these relations will reaffirm the special ties of friendship that have linked together the people of the United States and Kosovo."
Kosovo, which has a 90 percent ethnic Albanian population, has been under international supervision since the end of conflict with Belgrade in the 1990s.
"The unusual combination of factors found in the Kosovo situation -- including the context of Yugoslavia's breakup, the history of ethnic cleansing and crimes against civilians in Kosovo, and the extended period of U.N. administration -- are not found elsewhere and therefore make Kosovo a special case. Kosovo cannot be seen as a precedent for any other situation in the world today," the statement said in an apparent nod to Russia's opposition to the declaration.
Russia has warned recognizing Kosovo's independence would set a bad precedent for other regions that want to break away from their central governments.