"This is the latest and 'utterly wrong' U.S. move that came after illegal recognition of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence,” Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in an interview with the Vecernje Novosti daily.
In a presidential statement posted on the White House’s official Web site late Wednesday, Bush said Kosovo was eligible “to receive defence articles and defence services under the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act.”
In his decree, Bush said military assistance to Kosovo "will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace."
Although its constitution envisions so, Kosovo does not yet have a standing army. The Kosovo Protection Corps, a civilian defence organization that emerged from the now-defunct Kosovo Liberation Army, should serve as an embryo for the future military, according to the blueprint for Kosovo's 'supervised independence' devised by UN Special envoy, Martti Ahtisaari. The territory maintains its police force which is under United Nations control.
In excerpts from the interview that will be published on Friday, Kostunica said that “there are too many weapons in Kosovo.”
Kostunica, a conservative politician is bitterly opposed to the U.S. policy of recognising and aiding Kosovo after it declared independence on February 17.
With the backing of key ally Russia, Serbia, which considers Kosovo as the heartland of its Orthodox Christian civilisation is trying to block territory’s access to the United Nations and other international organizations.
Ljubodrag Stojadinovic, a columnist with Belgrade's Politika daily and former military spokesman said "such a move indicates that Washington is ready to throw all of its weight" behind Kosovo.
"Americans are more concrete in backing their Kosovo Albanian allies than Russians who are supporting Serbia only verbally," he said.
A total of 33 countries, including leading Western powers have recognised Kosovo’s independence so far, prompting Serbia to protest and to pull out ambassadors from respective capitals for consultations.
The recognition of Kosovo by the U.S. and the West angered Serbs and many embassies were attacked in the February 21 riots in Belgrade.
“Instead of arming (Kosovo) Albanians, the U.S. should revert to adherence of the international law and the UN charter. Kosovo does not need new weapons but new negotiations” over its status, Kostunica said.
Serbia’s outgoing premier whose Cabinet collapsed on March 13 over disagreements about European integration with pro-Western coalition partners loyal to President Boris Tadic said “the American decision is only confirming implementation of a dangerous plan of creating a NATO puppet state in the world.”
"American authorities must know that the Serbian people are dismayed over the policy of force the U.S. is pursuing in its relations with Serbia. Our duty is to fight for the right and justice that belong to Serbia and to win either today or tomorrow,” Kostunica said.
In 1999 the U.S. administration under President Bill Clinton, led the NATO bombing of the now defunct two-republic Yugoslavia in an attempt to oust Serbian troops from Kosovo, then Serbia’s southern province and end their crackdown on ethnic Albanian rebels.
The U.S. currently maintains a 1456-strong military presence in Kosovo and the Bondsteel military base, as part of NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping contingent.