Friday, January 06, 2006

Albania PM:Independent Kosovo Will Bring Peace,Stability

TIRANA (AP)--Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Thursday an independent Kosovo would bring peace and stability to the Balkans and appealed to the province's ethnic Albanians to create conditions that allow the Serb minority to live a normal life.

In a television talk show, Berisha suggested the Kosovo parliament declare an amnesty "as an act to show that any Serb may return to Kosovo."

"I stand with the idea of respecting the Kosovo Serbs' rights and well as defending the view that independence is the only solution that produces peace and stability," Berisha said.

He also stressed the importance of continuing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

Kosovo remains officially part of Serbia, the dominant republic in the Serbia-Montenegro union that replaced Yugoslavia. But it has been administered by the United Nations and NATO since the alliance's 1999 air war halted former President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists and expelled Serb troops from the province.

Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority, is to enter talks this year on its future political status, which are likely to increase tensions in the deeply polarized region.

The ethnic Albanians want complete independence, while Serbia wants to retain some formal control over its southern province.

Albania has declared it has no territorial claims on Kosovo and that no one should fear Albania could join with the province. It has also said that Kosovo needs a continuing NATO presence.

Berisha said he was in continuous contact with Kosovo Albanian leaders. But "I have never been paternalist," he said. [ 06-01-06 0945GMT ]

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