Serbia's president will invite Kosovo's pro-independence leader for the first direct talks on the disputed province's future, the Serbian president's office said Tuesday.
But a spokesman for the ethnic Albanian leader of Kosovo said Ibrahim Rugova would reject the invitation.
"There can be no direct political talks with Belgrade," Muhamet Hamiti, a spokesman for Rugova, told the Associated Press in the Kosovo capital of Pristina. "The bilateral meetings between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia ... can happen only after Kosovo's independence is recognized."
Serbs consider Kosovo an integral part of their nation and the birthplace of their statehood, but the province's ethnic Albanian majority wants complete independence.
Kosovo has been an international protectorate administered by the United Nations and a NATO-led peacekeeping force since 1999, when a NATO air war halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic-Albanian separatists.
Belgrade said Monday it was prepared to accept a "compromise solution" for its future status but stood firmly against independence for the territory.
Serbian President Boris Tadic will invite Rugova to Belgrade this week for what would be "the start of direct political dialogue," his press office said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The announcement was made after talks in Belgrade with the so-called "Contact Group," which includes envoys from the United States, the European Union, Russia, France, Italy, Germany and Britain. The international envoys discussed future solutions for the troubled province.
Germany's envoy in the Contact Group, Michael Scheffer, said it was good that both Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials would be represented in the talks. He said all sides have agreed that the province's future status "cannot be returned to before 1999" when it was under Serb control.
The territory formally remains part of Serbia-Montenegro, the small union that replaced Yugoslavia.