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Germany to recognize Kosovan independence

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  • Germany says it will begin establishing bilateral relations with Kosovo
  • NATO says no plans to increase security despite attacks on border checkpoints
  • Serbia warns diplomatic action will be taken against countries recognizing Kosovo
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(CNN) -- Germany will formally recognize Kosovo's independence and begin bilateral diplomatic relations, a spokesman for the German government said Wednesday.

German President Horst Koehler plans to send a letter Wednesday to Kosovo's president, making the recognition formally complete, spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told a news conference.

Germany also will turn its liaison office in Kosovo into a full embassy, said Martin Jaeger, a spokesman for Germany's Foreign Ministry.

The move follows the recognition of Kosovo by Great Britain, France and the United States. Russia, Serbia and China oppose Kosovo's declaration of independence. Spain has expressed concern that recognition will give momentum to secessionist movements in other countries, such as the Basques in northern Spain.

Jaeger said the German government wants to maintain good relations with Serbia, which still considers Kosovo a province and has refused to recognize its self-declared status.

"Nobody wants to isolate Serbia," Jaeger said. "If that were to happen, it would only happen due to the actions of the government in Belgrade and I hope that will not come to that, and I don't believe it will."

Wilhelm said Germany will support bringing Serbia closer to the European Union.

The commander of NATO forces in Kosovo said Wednesday he does not plan to step up security in the tense north despite violent attacks by Kosovo Serb protesters on two boundary crossings between Kosovo and Serbia.

Lt. Gen. Xavier de Marnhac spoke a day after protesters set fire to the crossings in the north, which is home to most of Kosovo's Serb minority.

United Nations officials described the violence as a "one-time incident" and said the situation Wednesday was calm.

Groups of Kosovo Serbs attacked the two boundary crossings Tuesday, setting fire to buildings and cars, UNMIK officials said. The crossings are along the administrative boundary line between Kosovo and Serbia.Video Watch flames ravage border posts. »

In one attack, a group set fire to UNMIK customs offices and vehicles belonging to the Kosovo police service, said UNMIK spokesman Alexander Ivanko. In the other attack, a group of about 800 people set fire to customs offices, Ivanko said.

There were no injuries, but the local and international police officers who were on site were outnumbered and simply removed equipment from the offices before they were burned, Ivanko said.

The U.N. special representative to Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, said the attacks were unacceptable.

"Violence is absolutely not an option and will not be tolerated in Kosovo," Ruecker told a news conference Wednesday. But he added, "I tend to see this as a one-time incident, and I think it was responded to in an appropriate way."

Ruecker said the United Nations was talking with leaders in northern Kosovo to discuss the violence.

"Over the past 24 hours, the situation has been calm and quiet in Kosovo," Ivanko said. "Of course we have police patrols and KFOR is patrolling all over Kosovo, but we still expect the situation to continue to be normal."

Troops from NATO's mission in Kosovo, KFOR, have mostly been patrolling Kosovo's international borders, which have not included the boundary line with Serbia. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on Sunday.

After Tuesday's attacks, however, Ruecker requested that KFOR troops deploy to the two crossing points, Ivanko said. De Marnhac said his troops will stay there for now.

"We are going to maintain security in those two locations, but I do not intend to deploy any more forces there for the time being," de Marnhac told the news conference.

Kosovo's declaration of independence brought fears of violence between Kosovo's minority Serbs and majority ethnic Albanians. Kosovo's local police are supported by police officers from UNMIK and KFOR troops, which number 16,000.

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The European Union is sending in a force of 1,900 police officers, customs and judicial officials which will gradually replace the UNMIK police.

"We share a common will to go back to normal as soon as possible and I think this is the common interest of everybody, obviously starting with the population in the north," de Marnhac said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN Berlin Bureau Chief contributed to this report

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