Kosovo celebrates 20 years of NATO-brought freedom

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo on Wednesday celebrated the 20th anniversary of the deployment of NATO troops in an operation that helped stop a Serb military crackdown on ethnic Albanians that left more than 10,000 dead.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and ex-NATO commander Wesley Clark were joined by other world leaders at Skenderbeu Square downtown the capital, Pristina.

Recalling the intervention, Albright described how Clinton woke her up in the night to tell her that jets had left for Kosovo, saying: "We are doing the right thing!"

"We did it because our cause was fair," she said. "We will never forget about you. The future belongs to you."

Long applause broke out in the square, and some held a big U.S. flag and shouted "U.S.A.!"

Clinton called on Kosovars to "never forget the challenges" ahead.

"A new form of courage and patience is needed to build the future," he said.

Kosovo's 1998-99 war ended with a 78-day NATO air campaign. It declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade — along with countries including Russia and China — do not recognize it and relations remain tense.

A European Union-facilitated dialogue between the two sides since 2011 has stalled.

Kosovo's independence is recognized by 115 countries.

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Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.

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