BERLIN (AP) - Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel called in remarks released Friday for the "dignity of the Serbs" to be respected in talks over the future status of Kosovo.
Efforts to stabilize the Balkans are expected to be a focus of Austria's six-month presidency of the European Union, which begins on Jan. 1.
In a newspaper interview, Schuessel said Serbia faced difficult problems, from international pressure to hand over suspected war criminals to the future of its federation with Montenegro and efforts to revive the economy.
"I urge that we take the dignity of the Serbs very seriously," Schuessel was quoted as saying in an interview to appear in Saturday's Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
"Finding a new status for Kosovo will be unavoidable. But that can only happen in dialogue with the partners," Schuessel said.
U.N.-mediated talks are expected to begin in January on whether Kosovo becomes independent as demanded by ethnic Albanians or remains under the formal control of Serbia.
Kosovo, officially a province of Serbia-Montenegro, has been administered by the United Nations since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign halted the Serbian crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.
Some 17,500 NATO-led peacekeepers are deployed in the province.