Sunday, July 03, 2005

Kosovo PM says bombs will not sabotage status talks

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, July 3 (Reuters) - Kosovo's prime minister said the U.N. protectorate was still on course to hold negotiations this year to settle its fate despite bomb blasts on Saturday.
Explosions at Kosovo's United Nations administration, parliament building and the headquarters of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) rocked Pristina's bustling city centre at about 9.30 p.m. (1930 GMT).
No one was injured. But the blasts come as U.N. envoy Kai Eide begins a review of whether Kosovo is ready for negotiations to decide on the ethnic Albanian majority's demand for independence from Serbia, possibly in September.
Serbia's southern province, which became a U.N. protectorate after the 1999 war, is on a knife-edge. Any escalation of violence could throw the process into disarray.
"Now, when it is time to assess our progress, it seems there are forces that want to devalue the achievements that our institutions have made," ethnic Albanian prime minister Bajram Kosumi told Reuters on Sunday.
"But they cannot stop the path towards our goal."
Police reopened the centre of Pristina and three U.N. vehicles gutted by fire were removed for forensic analysis.
A senior U.N. security source indicated at least one of the explosions was caused by a hand grenade.
Kosovo has seen a spate of bomb attacks and shootings, often aimed at U.N. facilities or vehicles, since the departure in March of Kosumi's predecessor, Ramush Haradinaj, to stand trial for war crimes at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague.
Kosovo Albanians see Haradinaj as a hero of the guerrilla war. Analysts said the attacks were a warning of what might come if the 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority is denied full independence from Serbia, something Belgrade rules out.
Western powers are said to be considering some form of "conditional independence", under European Union oversight.
They have already made clear Kosovo will not return to its pre-1999 status and have vested the province with powers Serbia says should only be reserved for an independent state -- its own police force, customs service, currency and postal code.
"This is a really delicate time," a senior U.N. official who asked not to be named told Reuters. "Even among the extremists there's an understanding now is not the time to rock the boat."
Western diplomats say the most likely scenario for "status negotiations" is six to nine months of European-led shuttle diplomacy between Belgrade and Pristina.
Some elements within the Albanian majority say even this is conceding too much. They do not want Belgrade involved at all, after NATO bombed for 78 days in 1999 to drive out Serb forces accused of atrocities against Albanian civilians.
(Additional reporting by Matthew Robinson)

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