KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP)--Kosovo Serbs on Tuesday demanded autonomy for their dwindling community, and called for a "decentralization" of the troubled province that would effectively keep them apart from Kosovo's dominant ethnic Albanians.
Anticipating that upcoming international talks on Kosovo's future may meet the ethnic Albanian demands for Kosovo's independence from Serbia, the Association of Serb Communities in Kosovo issued a proclamation saying that "whatever the ( ethnic) Albanians are given in relation to Belgrade, (Kosovo) Serbs must get the same from Pristina."
Pristina is the capital of Kosovo, the southern province that has been a U.N. and NATO protectorate since the 1998-1999 war between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.
NATO bombing in 1999 forced Serbia to relinquish control over its southern province, the final status of which is to be decided this year under the auspices of the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, Germany and Italy.
About 200,000 Serbs fled Kosovo in 1999, and the remaining 100,000 mostly live in scattered enclaves, under occasional attacks by ethnic Albanian militants.
The leader of the Association of Serb Communities in Kosovo, Marko Jaksic, said that "if (ethnic) Albanians do not wish that Belgrade rules over them, there is no reason for Pristina to rule over Serbs" in Kosovo.
He described the decentralization as allowing self-rule to the Serb enclaves in Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up about 90% of the population.
"Decentralization is the key factor for our survival and the possible return of Serb refugees" to their Kosovo homes, he said.