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VIENNA, Austria (AP) - The head of a special Serbian government committee for Kosovo insisted Thursday that granting the province independence would make the Balkans unstable.
Nebojsa Covic told reporters following a session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that the province should be allowed to wide autonomy -- but not freedom from Serbia-Montenegro.
"Independence would be a completely unsuitable solution," he said. "It would act as a factor of instability."
Kosovo has been under the control of the United Nations and NATO since a 1999 alliance air war that halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
Kosovo's Serbs want the province to remain part of Serbia-Montenegro. Its ethnic Albanian majority wants independence.
Both communities remain at odds, with Serb minority repeatedly subjected to attack.
Covic's remarks reflected a growing Serb unease with the prospect of talks this year on the province's future -- talks which theoretically could grant this disputed territory some form of independence from Serbia.
The talks will probably begin in the fall even though the province still hasn't reached necessary benchmarks -- such as ethnic reconciliation and better protection of minorities -- established by the United Nations as necessary standards before the discussions on Kosovo's status could begin. A final review of the process is planned for mid-2005.
Covic suggested that more time was needed before Kosovo was ready for the next step.
"Despite the strong international civilian and military presence, throughout these six years, the new reality is that one ethnic community, the Serb one, is disappearing under the pressure and violent action of the majority community," he said.