ext of report in English by Slovene news agency STA
Ljubljana, 14 April: Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova has told a Slovene paper he believes the ball is in the international community's court when it comes to Kosovar independence.
So much has changed in Kosovo since NATO intervened in 1999 that the province is very close to independence, Rugova told Thursday's [14 April] edition of Delo.
Asked about the most optimistic predictions that Kosovo could become independent in the next year, Rugova said it was now up to the international community to take the next step.
Outlining his vision, he said UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] will remain in the province for some time, but only as an observer. Moreover, Kfor [Nato-led Kosovo Force] and NATO would continue to function, while Kosovo would form its own army, with a set number of soldiers.
Rugova is convinced that after the US, EU and UN recognize Kosovar independence, its neighbours would follow suit.
Rugova maintains that the direct recognition of Kosovo independence would be the best option, as this would cause barriers to independence to come down on their own.
Kosovo has made democracy-building its priority, Rugova underscored, adding that he was confident the province would succeed in these efforts.
Stability and protection of minority rights are the most important factors in this, he stressed.
Touching on the possibilities for the successful integration of Kosovo Serbs, Rugova said this process would be easier if Kosovo were already an independent state.
Moreover, he added that the province's officials will have to be careful as they may be subject to provocations, particularly from neighbours.
Rugova believes it will take time before the two communities are able to live side-by-side in peace.
He underscored that seats in the Kosovo parliament have already been set aside for Serbian minority lawmakers, as have three ministerial positions. Moreover, the Serbian minority has the right to a special budget, he said.
According to him, dialogue with Belgrade is poor. Officials in Serbia can express their opinions on Kosovo, but they have no right to dictate the political process in the province, he said.
Rugova reiterated that he would be willing to negotiate with Belgrade only after Kosovo is an independent and internationally-recognized state.
Source: STA news agency, Ljubljana, in English 0850 gmt 14 Apr 05