Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Kosovo Cabinet: Tadic Words Deepen Split

Kosovo officials said on Tuesday that remarks made by Serbia's president during a recent visit to the U.N.-administered province widened the gulf between its ethnic Albanian and Serb residents.

The Kosovo government called the comments made by Boris Tadic "unprecedented."

Tadic on Monday told Serbs living in isolated enclaves in Kosovo that independence for the province of Serbia would be "totally unacceptable."

"The statements of the Serbian president do not help the integration of the Serb community in Kosovo society and institutions," the cabinet's press office said in a statement.

Tadic's statements show a continuation of "Belgrade's policy to deepen the split and isolation of Serb citizens in Kosovo," the statement put out by the government of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj went on to read.

Tadic's visit should have stressed peace, tolerance and understanding, as well as pressed for the co-operation and integration of the Serb minority in Kosovo society, the statement added.

Tadic was the first Serb head of state to visit Kosovo since it became a U.N. protectorate in 1999, following NATO's 73-day bombing campaign to halt the Serb repression of the ethnic Albanian majority in the province.

Kosovo is legally part of the loose union of Serbia and Montenegro that succeeded rump Yugoslavia in 2003. The final status of the province is subject of a dispute between its ethnic Albanian residents, who seek independence, and its Serbs, who insist on autonomy within the union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Final status talks should begin later this year.

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