By Beti Bilandzic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia told Russia on Monday that it had no intention of trying to re-impose its will on Kosovo Albanians but could not allow them to change Serbia's borders by declaring the province independent.
Talks to determine Kosovo's "final status" are due to start later this month, conducted by newly appointed U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari. Serbian President Boris Tadic has warned that major powers might impose a solution if the two sides fail to agree.
"It is neither Serbia's intention nor wish to rule over the Albanian majority in Kosovo and we emphasise the right of the Albanian people to organise their own life there," Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said.
But he said Albanian rights do not include "terrorising" Serbs, trampling on the United Nations charter or "changing the internationally recognised borders of our state".
Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999 when NATO bombing compelled former president Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces. Some 10,000 civilians were killed during his two-year crackdown on an Albanian guerrilla insurgency.
Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority has been clamouring for independence ever since.
Serbia offers far-reaching autonomy but not a separate country, which would require altering the borders of the internationally recognised, democratic state of Serbia and Montenegro.
CONCRETE PROPOSALS REQUIRED
Draskovic was speaking at a news conference with counterpart Sergei Lavrov of Russia, Serbia's traditional Security Council ally and member of the big power Contact Group (United States, Italy, Germany, France, Britain and Russia) which will oversee the talks.
"No solution can be imposed. It can only be the result of direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina (Kosovo's provincial capital)," Lavrov said.
Russia supported Belgrade's concept of "less than independence but more than autonomy", he added. But "we need this concept to be translated into specific proposals and we hope that our friends in Belgrade will do so".
In line with Contact Group guidelines, Lavrov said that partition of Kosovo, where 100,000 Serbs live next to two million ethnic Albanians, should be ruled out. He was due to visit Kosovo later in the day.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has said no one wants partition, neither his government nor the international community nor the Kosovo Albanians.
But deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus -- an influential liberal in Serbia's centre-right ruling coalition -- has raised the possibility of dividing Kosovo into two "entities", the formula used in neighbouring Bosnia to accommodate Serbs, Muslims and Croats in one state after their 1992-95 war.