By Matthew Robinson
PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Albin Kurti is an unlikely threat to national security. The boyish face, black-rimmed glasses and knee-length overcoat ring more of a mature Harry Potter than the terrorist Serbia labeled him in the late 1990s.
In the past eight years, the now 30-year old Kosovo Albanian has evolved from student activist to rebel to relentless gadfly for the U.N. mission running Kosovo since 1999.
As the disputed province opens direct negotiations with Serbia on Monday to seal its fate, Kurti is not afraid to again swim against the tide.
"There's many things we should talk about with Belgrade, but only when Belgrade quits with its aspirations to regain Kosovo," he said this week in the chaotic Pristina office of "Self Determination" -- his latest vehicle of political subversion.
Like a hippie commune, scruffy co-conspirators lounge on chairs, hanging on his every fluent English word.
"When Belgrade accepts the will of the people, then we can negotiate. But under the present situation, when there's no regret for the past and no justice for the victims ... there can be no negotiations and no compromise."
Such sentiments are common among the 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority, for whom Serbia remains the enemy banished by homegrown guerrillas and NATO bombs in 1999.
By tapping into this widespread sense of mistrust, Kurti and his 7,000-strong political movement want to torpedo the talks and pursue the right to a referendum on independence.
"We want to ready ourselves for big demonstrations. The people taking part should be able to protest long term. Days, weeks, months. Not 50,000 people for two hours who then go home and watch themselves on TV," Kurti said."
Negotiations, so his argument goes, can only lead to compromise, which means Kosovo settling for less than the independence it demands.
Kurti's influence is limited, but growing.
U.N. officials and foreign diplomats watch the so-called "Kurti Factor" closely. They fear the protests he promises could trigger another bout of violence and scupper the U.N.-led process of mediation, launched late last year.
Kurti's youthful appearance belies his experience.
As leader of the politically vocal student union, he was behind several mass protests against Serb rule in the late 1990s. In 1998 he became right-hand-man to Adem Demaci, the political representative of the Kosovo Liberation Army that was waging a guerrilla war against Serb forces.
Then in 1999, as NATO bombs drove out Serb forces accused of killing and expelling ethnic Albanians, he was arrested on terrorism charges and spent almost three years in Serbian jails.
Since his release in 2001, Kurti has been railing against U.N. "colonialists" who put the people's future on ice while preaching tolerance to the jobless and disaffected.
Town hall meetings and satirical stunts have brought him into living rooms across Kosovo. Flyers and graffiti -- "No negotiations, self-determination" -- litter the province.
The evening news often carries shots of Kurti and his cohorts being bundled into police vans after letting down U.N. car tyres or hurling eggs at visiting Serb officials.
The message: The compromise demanded by the international community means Albanians acquiescing in the division of Kosovo into ethnic areas, as happened in Bosnia after the 1992-95 war.
With Belgrade and Pristina so far apart, talks can only fail, he says. "And when there's no agreement there will be war. That's why we want to stop negotiations as soon as possible."
Kurti graduated in computer sciences, but his real education is in political theory and civil disobedience.
"Like Gandhi said: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. They're still not fighting us."