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Serbs protest independence move and vow to reclaim province.

The United States and major European powers recognized Kosovo on Monday, a day after the province's ethnic Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia. Giddy Kosovars danced in the streets when they heard of the endorsements.

Kosovo's leaders sent letters to 192 countries seeking formal recognition and Britain, France, Germany and the United States were among the countries that backed the request. But other European Union nations were opposed, including Spain, which has battled a violent Basque separatist movement for decades.

"The Kosovars are now independent," President Bush said. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Bush "responded affirmatively" to Kosovo's request to establish diplomatic relations.

Serbia withdrew its ambassador from Washington over the U.S. decision.

As word of the recognition spread, ethnic Albanians poured into the streets of Kosovo's capital, Pristina, to cheer.

But Serb-controlled northern Kosovo was tense, with thousands demonstrating against independence and an explosion damaging a U.N. vehicle outside the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica. No one was hurt.

The crowds marched to a bridge spanning a river dividing the town between the ethnic Albanian and Serbian sides. They were confronted by NATO peacekeepers guarding the bridge; there was no violence.

About 800 Serbs staged a noisy demonstration in the Serb-dominated enclave of Gracanica outside Pristina, waving Serbian flags and singing patriotic songs.

In Belgrade, Serbian lawmakers endorsed a government resolution vowing to reclaim the territory.

Russia persuaded the U.N. Security Council to meet in emergency session Sunday in an attempt to block Kosovo's secession. The council met again Monday for 21/2 hours without agreement on a resolution or joint statement regarding the declaration of independence.

Kosovo had formally remained a part of Serbia even though it has been administered by the United Nations and NATO since 1999, when NATO airstrikes ended former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists, which killed 10,000 people.

Ninety percent of Kosovo's 2-million people are ethnic Albanian - most of them secular Muslims - and they see no reason to stay joined to the rest of Christian Orthodox Serbia.

What's next?

What will happen next is unclear. Russia and Serbia have called on the United Nations to overturn Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia. Russia may try to block any attempt to wind down the U.N. mission in Kosovo. Serbia has regarded Kosovo as its heartland since medieval times.

Times wires