World Court to rule on Kosovo's independence
Serbia won approval at the United Nations on Wednesday to have the World Court examine Kosovo's declaration of independence earlier this year.
A Serbian-sponsored resolution at the UN General Assembly in New York referred the case to the court in The Hague, which could take up to two years to render a decision.
The resolution passed with 77 votes in favour, six votes against and 74 abstentions. Most of the 27 members of the European Union abstained, while the United States and Albania opposed the move.
The court will pronounce on whether the Feb. 17 unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, a breakaway Serb province, was legal.
"The Serbian request is primarily for political rather than legal reasons," British UN ambassador John Sawyers said, explaining why his country abstained.
"It is designed to slow down Kosovo's emergence as a widely recognized independent nation, playing its part in the international institutions of the world."
The United States, Britain, France, Canada, and most member countries of NATO and the EU have recognized Kosovo's independence. Russia and most former Soviet bloc countries oppose it.
Belgrade said seeking neutral judicial advice will help ease tensions in the region, but Kosovo's supporters say it will slow down the new country's integration into the world community.
The International Court of Justice, as it is formally known, is the UN's highest tribunal on matters of international law. Its 15 judges come from around the world and serve nine-year terms.
With files from Reuters