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Serbian outrage over Bush remarks

Story Highlights

Serbian PM "outraged" by Bush remarks calling for Kosovan independence
Bush hails Bulgaria as a "valued ally" on final day of European tour in Sofia
Bulgarian president expresses concerns over U.S. missile defense plans
• Bush flying home to Gonzales no confidence vote and stalled immigration reform

SOFIA, Bulgaria (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush was returning home Monday after an eight-day European tour dominated by concerns over American plans for a Europe-based missile defense system and the future status of the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Monday that his country was "rightfully embittered" by Bush's remarks in support of Kosovan independence made during a brief stopover Sunday in Albania, adding that the United States "has no right to give away Serbia's territory to Albanians," according to a government news release.

"America must find another way to show its affection and love for the [Kosovan] Albanians, without offering them Serb territories," Kostunica told Serbian national television.

"Serbia is rightfully outraged at the American policies on the issue of Kosovo."

Kostunica's comments came after Bush said: "At some point in time -- sooner rather than later -- you've got to say 'Enough is enough. Kosovo is independent' and that's the position we've taken." (Full story)

During a visit to Bulgaria on Monday, Bush reiterated his backing for Kosovan statehood, adding: "As we seek independence for Kosovo, we've also got to make it clear to Serbia that there's a way forward, maybe in NATO, maybe in the EU, and definitely in better relations with the United States."

Independent Kosovo?

Bush also called for immediate approval of a plan drafted by U.N. diplomat and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari that would give Kosovo limited statehood under international supervision.

"The time is now to move the Ahtisaari plan," Bush said, noting that he had dicussed the matter with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov. "America believes that Kosovo ought to be independent."

The U.N. Security Council is currently debating the Ahtisaari plan, which has been met with opposition by Russia, a veto-wielding member of the council. The U.S. leader says his position is supported by most of the G8 leaders.

Russia sides with its ally, Serbia, in opposing independence for Kosovo, fearing that it could set a precedent for the Muslim-dominated province of Chechnya, where rebels have been fighting against Russian rule.

Kosovo, which lies just to the north of Albania, is dominated by ethnic Albanians, who are mostly Muslim and have rejected Serbia's offer of autonomy within Serbian borders.

The province has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO airstrikes stopped Serbia's crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanian rebels.

Warm welcome

Attending a ceremony in a square in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, where he greeted Bulgarian soldiers who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush hailed the southeastern European nation as a "valued ally."

"We are allies, we share values, and we believe in freedom," Bush said following talks with Parvanov and Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

"And I appreciate the progress your country has made toward a free society. And I thank you for being an ally in helping others realize the blessings of liberty."

In contrast to the scenes of protest that surrounded last week's G8 summit in Germany and earlier stops on his tour, Bush was greeted warmly in Bulgaria, formerly a staunchly loyal Soviet satellite state, with locals waving American flags and packing into Sofia's central Nevsky Square as Bush laid a wreath at a war memorial to Bulgaria's Unknown Soldier.

But Parvanov also raised concerns about U.S. missile defense proposals which have damaged relations between Washington and Moscow.

On the one hand, Bulgaria is worried that southeastern Europe is not covered by the shield, which would be based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

But, it also fears that deteriorating relations between the Kremlin and the West could undermine the stability of its energy supplies, which come almost entirely from Russia.

"Bulgaria should not have to choose between the friendship between the U.S. and the friendship with Russia," Parvanov said, quoted by AP.

Before boarding a flight to return to Washington, Bush also vowed to revive stalled immigration legislation at home and said Monday's Senate vote of no confidence on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would have "no bearing" on whether he continued to serve or not. (Full story)

"I'll make the determination as to whether he's effective," said Bush, AP reported. "They can have their votes of no-confidence but it's not going to make the determination about who serves in my government."

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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