Fidel Castro retires after 49 years in power
Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in a statement on Feb. 19 that he would not return to lead the country as president or commander-in-chief, retiring as head of state 49 years after he seized power in an armed revolution.
Castro, 81, who had not appeared in public for almost 19 months after undergoing stomach surgery, said in a message to the communist nation that he would not seek a new presidential term when the National Assembly met on Feb. 24.
Castro's retirement draws the curtain on a political career that spanned the Cold War and survived U.S. enmity, assassination plots by the CIA and the demise of Soviet bloc communism.
A charismatic leader famous for his long speeches delivered in his green military fatigues, Castro is admired in the Third World for standing up to the United States but considered by his opponents a tyrant who suppressed freedom.
U.S. and European powers recognize Kosovo
The United States and major European powers led international moves to recognize Kosovo's independence on Feb. 18, prompting Serbia to recall its ambassador to Washington in protest.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared Kosovo "a sovereign and independent state," while U.S., British, French and Turkish diplomats exchanged letters with Kosovo's leaders in Pristina to establish formal diplomatic ties.
However, Serbia vowed to block the territory that it still claims from joining the United Nations and launched criminal action against Kosovo's leaders for the declaration of independence made on Feb. 17.
Germany, Italy and 14 other EU member states declared their intention to follow suit, while a number reserved judgment.
Many countries, from China to Romania, Russia and Spain, said they opposed Kosovo's independence, but its Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said he was confident there would soon be international approval.