DEBELDE, Serbia and Montenegro, April 26 (Reuters) - Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku poured fuel on a border dispute with Macedonia on Wednesday by visiting the mountain region in question and saying the current line should be renegotiated.
Studying a map of the border with Macedonia, Ceku, an ethnic Albanian former guerrilla commander, said a 2001 deal signed by Serbia and Macedonia, which Kosovo says deprived the United Nations-run province of 1,200 hectares of farmland, was invalid.
"Serbia doesn't have any right to sign anything related to Kosovo because they have no authority over Kosovo," he said in the dusty border village of Debelde.
"Macedonia must start realising they have a new neighbour. Kosovo is Macedonia's new neighbour," said Ceku, interim prime minister of the southern Serbian province since March.
Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority is pushing for independence from Serbia in U.N.-led negotiations in Vienna, seven years after NATO bombing drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against civilians in a two-year war with separatist guerrillas. The United Nations took control in June 1999.
But the border line above Debelde and its patchwork of tilled farmland and grassy hill slopes has yet to be demarcated since Serbia and Macedonia signed a deal in 2001 that was endorsed by the U.N. Security Council but rejected by Kosovo.
Ownership of this scrap of land, a route well trodden by smugglers and black-clad Albanian guerrillas during Macedonia's own Albanian rebel insurgency in 2001, has become a matter of pride for both sides.
Macedonia had hoped to talk Ceku into accepting the current deal -- signed with Serbia two years after it lost control of Kosovo and its southern border -- at a meeting in Skopje due on May 5.
But Kosovo insists there can be no demarcation until after a decision on its status, possibly later this year, when it believes it will finally win the right to renegotiate the border deal.
The major powers steering Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians through negotiations on "final status" want the border line set before they decide whether to grant Kosovo independence, which diplomats say is likely.
Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski said on Wednesday he was waiting to speak to Ceku "to see if the scheduled meeting will be productive or counter-productive."
Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski said he had "no intention of renegotiating."