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AS CHAOS STIRS KOSOVO, OTHER NATIONS PONDER

The decision to recognize isn't just about the country in question.

Global reaction to Kosovo's declaration of its independence Sunday has been mixed. The response has as much to do with history and local politics as it does with heartfelt feelings for Kosovo and its people.

First in line

Afghanistan was among the first to recognize Kosovo's independence, leaping at the chance to acknowledge a majority Muslim nation in Europe. Some in the war-ravaged Central Asian country said the decision was about maintaining strong relations with Washington.

"Some of the lawmakers do not even know where Kosovo is on the map," said Hafiz Mansoor, a newspaper editor.

George Tsai of Taipei's Chinese Cultural University said the Taiwanese move to recognize Kosovo was an attempt to score points against Beijing, a staunch supporter of Serbia.

Wait and see

Many Arab nations, such as Syria and Egypt, have declined to commit, and no Arab country has recognized Kosovo.

"Our Arab region in particular is full of groups of many religions, faiths, identities and nationalities," an editorial in Egyptian paper Al-Akhbar said. "What if Iraq should split into four or five countries, and Lebanon into six regions?"

Similar fears have held back many nations in Africa, where only Senegal has recognized Kosovo's independence.

Haven't, and won't

The main reason for opposition - in Spain, Slovakia and elsewhere - appears to be homegrown. Slovakia, part of Czechoslovakia until 1993, has a sizable Hungarian minority and fears encouraging ethnic tensions at home.

Spain has dealt for decades with the violent Basque separatist group ETA, which wants to carve out a homeland between Spain and France. Other Spanish regions - most notably economic powerhouse Catalonia - have pressed for more autonomy in moves some say could lead to the country's eventual breakup.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci brushed aside any concerns.

"Kosovo is an independent state - sovereign and democratic," he said.

FAST FACTS

On Friday

In Belgrade: Serbian President Boris Tadic called an emergency meeting of the national security council, saying riots that engulfed Belgrade late Thursday must "never happen again."U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter demanded that Serbia guarantee the safety of diplomatic missions and personnel.

In Moscow: Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's envoy to NATO, warned that Moscow may conclude it needs to resort to "brute military force" to earn respect on the world scene if all European Union nations recognize Kosovo's independence and NATO oversteps its authority in Kosovo. President Vladimir Putin issued a sharp warning to the West, saying the decision to recognize Kosovo's independence would "come back to knock them on the head."

In Washington: Senior State Department official Nicholas Burns called on Russia to repudiate the suggestion that Moscow may need to use military force to earn respect. Burns also criticized the Russian government's strong language condemning the recognition this week of Kosovo's independence by the United States and some European countries.

Associated Press

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