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Rice says Serbs ducked duty to protect embassy, US orders diplomats to leave
Rice DCSW114 5491635
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls on a reporter during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Feb. 22, 2008 to discuss her recent trip to Africa. - photo by Associated Press
    WASHINGTON — Serbia’s government failed to protect U.S. and other Western embassies from nationalist mobs angry over the international embrace of the former Serb province of Kosovo as an independent state, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.
    The State Department ordered all but a few essential diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade to leave Serbia, following an attack on the compound Thursday. Diplomats’ families were also told to leave, and the State Department warned Americans to strongly consider the risks to traveling to Serbia or remaining there.
    ‘‘They had an obligation to protect diplomatic missions and from what we can tell the police presence was either inadequate or unresponsive,’’ Rice told reporters. ‘‘We’ve made very clear to the Serb government that we don’t expect that to happen again.’’
    Rice said it is time for Serbs to accept that Kosovo is no longer theirs. She also suggested that it also time to drop centuries of grievance and sentimentality in the Balkans.
    ‘‘We believe that the resolution of Kosovo’s status will really, finally, let the Balkans begin to put its terrible history behind it,’’ Rice said. ‘‘I mean, after all, we’re talking about something from 1389 — 1389. It’s time to move forward.’’
    Kosovo was the site of an epic battle between Serbs and Turks in 1389. It is considered hallowed ground by Serbs and the birthplace of their identity. Kosovo declared independence over the weekend, and the United States was among the first to recognize it as an independent country.
    U.S. officials said Americans and their employees were in danger when a mob protesting the loss of Kosovo overran part of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. A State Department official said 14 embassy employees were at the embassy site and all are safe.
    The charred body of one person found in the compound is believed to be that of a protester, spokesman Sean McCormack said.
    U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Cameron Munter requested the departure of lower-level diplomats and families, and the embassy remained closed to outsiders Friday.
    ‘‘We are not sufficiently confident that they are safe here,’’ Munter said in an interview in Belgrade.
    The move came as U.S. diplomats across the Balkans went on alert, girding for more anti-American violence.
    On another topic, Rice also urged the United Nations Security Council to quickly consider new penalties on Iran over its disputed nuclear program. She said a watchdog report Friday gave added weight to the global effort to roll back a program the United States fears could one day lead to a nuclear bomb.
    Speaking to reporters before a trip to Asia, Rice said she will discuss another pending nuclear case. North Korea has already built and tested a nuclear device and has agreed to give up its weapons in return for a package of incentives. The deal, however, is in limbo nearly two months past a deadline for the secretive North to detail its nuclear holdings.
    Rice said she would not meet with North Korean officials during her trip to South Korea, China and Japan, calling such contact useless. Rice, an amateur pianist, also tamped down expectations about next week’s concert in North Korea by the New York Philharmonic.
    ‘‘I don’t think we should get carried away with what listening to Dvorak is going to do in North Korea,’’ Rice said, referring to the orchestra’s plan to play Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9.
    ‘‘The North Korean regime is still the North Korean regime,’’ she said.

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