Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Serbian PM Formally Invites Kosovo PM For Mtg Next Week

BELGRADE (AP)--Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica sent a formal invitation to Kosovo's leader to meet next week for the governments' first talks since 1998-99 war, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

Kostunica proposed that Kosovo's ethnic Albanian Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi meet in the western Kosovo town of Prizren on May 25, said spokesman Srdjan Djuric.

"We believe that it is very important that this meeting be held," Djuric said. "We expect a positive response."

In Pristina, Kosumi's office said they still haven't received Kostunica's invitation. Kosumi has in the past expressed readiness to meet with Kostunica.

If held, the meeting would present an important step in advancing dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, whose relations remain distant years after the Kosovo war ended in June 1999.

International officials running Kosovo have brokered mid-level meetings, but no talks between top officials from Serbia and Kosovo.

Kosovo formally remains part of Serbia-Montenegro, or what used to be Yugoslavia, although the province has been an international protectorate since 1999, when a NATO bombing halted a Serb crackdown against separatist ethnic Albanians and forced Serbia to cede control over Kosovo to the U.N. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Internationally sponsored talks to determine Kosovo's future status are expected to start later this year. Majority ethnic Albanians insist Kosovo should gain independence, while Belgrade wants to retain at least some authority over the territory. [ 17-05-05 1429GMT ]

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