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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Plans Mission to Kosovo in Anticipation of Independence

BRUSSELS -- European Union leaders agreed on Friday to send administrators and police to Kosovo ahead of its expected secession from Serbia, which branded the mission an attempt to create a "puppet state" on its soil.

In a bid to soothe Balkan tensions over Kosovo's push for independence, they offered Serbia a fast-track route to EU entry once it met conditions for signing a first-step accord on ties.

But Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said the offer was an insult and that recognition of Kosovo's independence would be "the most dangerous precedent since World War II.

"It is especially insulting to offer a crippled Serbia the reward of fast-track to the EU in exchange for its consent to violence," Kostunica said in a statement released in Belgrade.

EU leaders declared after a one-day summit that negotiations on Kosovo's future were exhausted, the status quo was untenable and there was a need to move toward a settlement. They stopped short of endorsing independence.

"We took a political decision to send a [European Security and Defence Policy] mission to Kosovo. This is the clearest signal the EU could possibly give that Europe intends to lead on Kosovo and the future of the region," Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, the summit chairman, told a news conference.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the decision would be implemented after EU foreign ministers next meet on Jan. 28, the clearest indication of when the force could start to deploy.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters that there was a general understanding that Kosovo's independence was inevitable.

But diplomats said Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Romania all objected to recognizing Kosovo's sovereignty without a UN Security Council resolution.

"I want to make clear we are not supporting the declaration of Kosovo's independence. Any agreement on Kosovo must be done with the blessing of the Serbs," Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos told reporters.