PRISTINA (AP)--Kosovo's newly elected president said Friday that the ethnic Albanian demand for independence from Serbia remains non-negotiable.
Fatmir Sejdiu was elected by Parliament to fill the post left by the death of pro-independence leader Ibrahim Rugova last month and paves the way for the start of U.N.-mediated talks on Kosovo's future status.
Sejdiu, 54, said assuming the post at this delicate time is a "heavy burden and responsibility," as Kosovo leaders prepare to negotiate with Serbia's officials over the future of the disputed region later this month.
Sejdiu, the province's second president since the 1999 war, holds positions on Kosovo's status that are nearly identical with those of his predecessor, who dominated the province's politics for 16 years and epitomized ethnic Albanians' quest for Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Rugova died of lung cancer on Jan. 21.
Kosovo has been run by the U.N. since NATO launched a bombing campaign to end a Serb crackdown on independence-minded ethnic Albanian rebels in 1999.
The presidential post is largely ceremonial, but it has gained importance because the president heads the team that will negotiate in U.N.-mediated talks with Serb officials.