Key dates in Kosovo's decades-long — and often bloody —drive to gain independence from Serbia:

1968 — First pro-independence demonstrations by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, when it was part of Yugoslavia; many arrested.

1991 — As Yugoslavia implodes, separatists proclaim Kosovo a republic, which is recognized by neighboring Albania.

1996 — Pro-independence Kosovo Liberation Army emerges, claims responsibility for bombings of police targets.

March-April 1998 — Dozens killed in Serb police action against suspected Albanian separatists. Serbs overwhelmingly reject international mediation on Kosovo in referendum. New international sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia.

July-September 1998 — KLA seizes control of 40 percent of Kosovo before being routed in Serb offensive. Serb forces attack villages; 22 ethnic Albanians found massacred in central Kosovo.

October 1998 — NATO allies authorize airstrikes against Serb military targets.

Jan. 15, 1999 — 45 ethnic Albanians slain outside Racak. International officials demand war crimes investigation.

March 1999 — Belgrade authorities reject the internationally brokered peace deal, while ethnic Albanians sign it.

March 24, 1999 — NATO launches 78 days of airstrikes against Yugoslavia.

March-June 1999 — Serb forces push out 800,000 ethnic Albanians who flee Kosovo into Albania and Macedonia.

June 10, 1999 — Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic agrees to withdraw troops from Kosovo after agreeing to a proposal for NATO to move in and the province to be run by U.N. Airstrikes halted. Some 50,000 NATO-led peacekeepers begin deploying in Kosovo, refugees stream back while Serbs flee in the wake of revenge attacks.

Oct. 6, 2000 — Milosevic resigns after mass demonstrations protesting his refusal to accept electoral defeat.

June 28, 2001 — Milosevic extradited to The Hague to face trial for war crimes, dies before trial ends.

February 2002 — Kosovo elects parliament and government with Ibrahim Rugova as president.

October 2003 — First direct talks between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders since 1999 end without agreement.

March 2004 — Ethnic Albanian mobs attack Serbs in worst outbreak of violence since the war.

January 2006 — Rugova dies of lung cancer in Pristina.

February 2006 — U.N.-mediated talks on Kosovo's future status begin.

October 2006 — In Serbian referendum, Kosovo is declared an integral part of Serbia.

Jan. 26, 2007 — U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveils recommended guidelines to Kosovo's eventual statehood.

April 2007 — Russia rejects Ahtisaari proposal at U.N. Security Council.

June 2007 — U.S. President George W. Bush says Kosovo needs to be independent "sooner rather than later."

July 2007 — Kosovo's prime minister says U.N.-sponsored process has failed and calls for declaration of independence by year's end.

Feb. 17, 2008 — Kosovo declares independence.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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