TIRANA (AP)--Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi said he is convinced the province will gain independence by June, an Albanian newspaper reported Thursday.
"There are always stages in the creation of a state. For us it is important that in June 2006 we should make Kosovo a state. I am convinced we shall do that," Kosumi was quoted as saying in an interview with the daily Tema.
Kosovo remains officially part of Serbia, the dominant republic in the Serbia-Montenegro union that replaced Yugoslavia. But it has been administered by the U.N. 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.
Kosovo's leadership has insisted on full independence, while Belgrade wants to give it wide autonomy but have it remain within its territory.
In a rare interview with Belgrade newspaper Vecernije Novosti earlier this month, Kosumi said ethnic Albanians would not negotiate directly with Serbian officials about Kosovo's future status.
Kosumi said that "the existing processes are not in favor of creating ethnic states."
"Time has come for a new process -that of creating civic states." he added. "Different ethnicities may live together in a state provided this state guarantees the economic, national, religious and cultural development of everyone."