SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP)--Kosovo needs broad-reaching autonomy and better protection of minorities, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Monday, but confirmed Belgrade's readiness to seek a compromise with Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.
"The Kosovo issue must be solved by (granting it) broad autonomy...and not by drawing new borderlines, which create precedents and divide people," Kostunica told reporters in Sofia after meeting Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev. "Kosovo needs better protection of all minorities and more powers for the local authorities."
Kostunica reaffirmed Serbia's readiness "to find a solution for Kosovo through negotiations, by reaching a mutually acceptable...compromise."
The U.N.-mediated talks on Kosovo's future status are expected to formally begin in January.
Although still officially a province of Serbia-Montenegro, the U.N. has administered Kosovo since a 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign halted the Serbian crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.
Serbia wants to retain at least formal control over Kosovo in the future while the province's ethnic Albanians insist on gaining independence.
Bulgaria has said it will agree with any deal that would be mutually acceptable for Serbia-Montenegro and the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Monday, however, Stanishev appeared to agree with Kostunica that changing state borders would be a step back.
"This sensitive issue should be solved in a way that would bring stability for the whole region, instead of taking us back to the past by creating new division lines," Stanishev said.
He also said that international presence, including that of the NATO-led peacekeeping force, KFOR, was still essential for Kosovo's security and stability.