Brussels, 27 April: Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova spoke today at a Kosovo discussion held in the Belgian senate, with once again, no Kosovo Serb officials present at the conference. Rugova stated that he believed that the US and the European Union would accept the independence of Kosovo. The Kosovo president said that other countries would confirm Kosovo's independence as well.
"Kosovo is able to exist as an independent state, it has natural riches. Independence would mean stability for the entire region and good relations for Kosovo with all of its neighbours, except for Serbia," Rugova said. Rugova said that he was encouraging the integration of Serbs in the region's institutional life and work and was asking for freedom of movement for all minorities. He said that the Kosovo government and UNMIK were working on the restoration of communities, houses and other buildings destroyed in last year's March riots and added that 90 per cent of the reconstruction had been finished.
Several officials who are participating in the discussion today mentioned that, without the presence of Serb officials at the conference, the meeting lost its objectivity and was not a true democratic discussion because the Serbian side could not present its stances and ideas.
Senate representative An Mari Lizen said that the Belgian government asked to have Kosovo Coordination Centre chairman Nebojsa Covic present at the meeting, but Rugova said that he would not participate if Covic was involved. The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs insisted that a Serbian official be present and recommended that the Serbia-Montenegro ambassador to Belgium, Milica Pejanovic Djursic, be called to present the stance of Covic at the conference. The Serbian government rejected this proposal.
Source: Radio B92 text web site, Belgrade, in English 1305 gmt 27 Apr 05