PRISTINA (AP)--Kosovo's president Tuesday named a team to lead possible talks with Serbia to resolve the disputed province's status.
President Ibrahim Rugova said he would lead the delegation, and the prime minister, the two opposition leaders and the head of Kosovo's parliament would also participate.
"The process leading to our political status belongs to everyone," Rugova said in a statement. "We all need to be present in Kosovo's delegation if final status talks take place."
Opposition parties did not immediately comment on the proposal by Rugova, who was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this month.
The top U.S. diplomat in Kosovo, Philip Goldberg, welcomed Rugova's move of " reaching out to all of Kosovo's political leaders to unify and accelerate preparations for talks on Kosovo's final status should they begin this fall."
Talks on the future of the U.N.-run province are expected to start by the end of the year if a special U.N. envoy recommends such a move. The envoy, Kai Eide, is expected to present a report to U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan with his recommendations later this month.
Eide has urged Kosovo's leaders to better reform local government, allow for the return of some 200,000 Serbs and other minorities who fled Kosovo after revenge attacks by ethnic Albanian extremists and protection of cultural heritage, including Serb Orthodox churches that have been targeted in past violence.
Kosovo has been under U.N. administration and patrolled by NATO since the alliance's 1999 air war that stopped a Serb crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians. The province's ethnic Albanian majority wants independence, while its Serb minority wants it to remain part of Serbia-Montenegro.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires