UN court to rule on Kosovo independence July 22

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is to give an advisory opinion on July 22 as to whether Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia was legal, the court announced Wednesday.

President of the Court Judge Hisashi Owada is to read out the non-binding ruling at a public sitting at 3:00 pm (1300 GMT) in The Hague, it said in a statement.

Serbia, Kosovo and 29 states including Russia and the United States took part in oral hearings before the court in December after the United Nations general assembly took the issue to the ICJ at the request of Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 and so far, 69 countries recognise Kosovo as a state, including the United States and 22 out of 27 EU countries.

Serbia went to the UN's top court because it wants to challenge the legality of the declaration. The ICJ has been asked to give an opinion.

Since it was founded in 1946, the ICJ has handed down 25 advisory opinions as part of its mission to settle international legal disputes.

In Belgrade, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said the announcement "will be a moment of truth and a warning to those in Pristina who have believed that they can change basic standards of the international law by their unilateral actions."

Serbia hopes to open new status talks with Pristina following the ICJ opinion.

"The ICJ opinion is not the last episode of the fight to preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia," Jeremic was quoted by Beta news agency as saying.

Serbia, backed by its traditional ally Russia, has refused to accept the declaration of independence and still considers Kosovo its southern province.

© 2010 AFP

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