Kosovo's Crazy For Joe Biden

Cheering and waving flags, thousands of ethnic Albanians lined the streets of Kosovo's capital on Thursday to welcome U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and applaud U.S. support for their new country's statehood.

Biden's visit is the first by a senior American official since Kosovo declared independence last year from Serbia — a change Serbia has vowed never to accept.

The capital of Pristina was decorated with flags, large posters and banners thanking Biden and U.S for their role in Kosovo. Many people waved Kosovo and U.S. flags.

Ethnic Albanians are staunch supporters of the U.S. because it led the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia that stopped the war in Kosovo.

Biden was greeted at the airport by Kosovo's newly formed security force, and later by President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. He was to address Kosovo's parliament later and will be awarded the Gold Medal of Freedom and a copy of Kosovo's Independence Declaration.

Biden also plans to visit a 14-century Serbian Orthodox monastery before going to the largest U.S. military installation in the region, Camp Bondsteel, home to some 1,000 American peacekeepers.

Sixty countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, with Bahrain becoming the latest one. Serbia and Russia are firmly opposed to Kosovo's statehood.

Highlighting the deep division, hundreds of Serbs were expected to protest Biden's visit to Kosovo's Serb-dominated north. Protesters are to lay wreaths at a monument commemorating Serbs killed during NATO's 78-day air war against Serb forces in 1999.

Kosovo is the last stop in a three-day tour that included Serbia and Bosnia. Biden's visit aims to show renewed U.S. interest in the Balkans, which was riven by bloody ethnic wars in the 1990s that the West blamed Serbia for fomenting.

In Serbia on Wednesday, Biden offered to reset relations between the two countries and help Serbia with its bid to join the European Union.

Biden had been an outspoken critic of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose policies led to a series of bloody wars that broke up the country.

The last top U.S. official to visit Kosovo was President George W. Bush, who met with American peacekeepers shortly before the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

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