PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro, May 2, 2006 (AFP) -
Serbia must shake off its colonial ambitions and stop obstructing talks on the status of Kosovo if it hopes to secure a European future, the disputed province's president said.
Speaking to AFP ahead of the resumption of UN-backed negotiations this week on the future status of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu said Serbia should have no role in determining the future of the ethnic Albanian majority province.
"Serbia should liberate itself from hegemonic and colonial sentiments of the past decades and choose a constructive way towards its neighbours, including Kosovo, in order to have a European perspective," Sejdiu said in an interview.
"Belgade can't be a factor that determines the future of Kosovo. It can't define how Kosovo's status will look," said the ethnic Albanian leader.
"There are two factors that will determine the political future of Kosovo: the will of the majority and the will of the major part of the minorities for a free and democratic Kosovo," he said.
Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since a 1999 NATO-led bombing campaign ousted Serbian troops -- loyal to ex-Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic -- engaged in a crackdown on separatist Albanian rebels.
The 1998-1999 conflict in Kosovo was brought to an end by UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which gave the nominally Serbian province its own provisional president, government and parliament.
Excluding foreign affairs, the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has gradually transferred some powers to the Albanian government in Pristina, including internal affairs and the judiciary.
"We asked the international community to intervene to solve Kosovo's status," said Sejdiu.
"We want this intervention to be effective, with a new quality that will ultimately consist of the recognition of Kosovo's independence."
Sejdiu succeeded Ibrahim Rugova on February 10, three weeks after the death from lung cancer of the former president regarded by most of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority as the "Father of the Nation".
The 54-year-old law professor supports independence from Serbia -- as do most of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians -- as well as the non-violent policies preached by Rugova.
The UN-backed talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the future status of the province, which began in February in Vienna, have not yielded any measurable results to date.
"The Kosovo (Albanian) negotiators' approach to the talks so far was appraised as positive," said Sejdiu.
"Belgrade wasn't cooperative in the process. It has been making permanent obstructions, even refusing the document and proposals of the UN mediators at the last meeting."
The next two-day session of UN-mediated talks between Pristina and Belgrade is scheduled to start Thursday. The international community hopes to be able to conclude the negotiations by the end of the year.
In the talks, the leaders of ethnic Albanians -- who outnumber Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo by nine to one -- are demanding complete independence from Serbia. Belgrade is only prepared to offer a high degree of autonomy.
The first three rounds of the Vienna talks focused on giving Kosovo communes -- especially those with a Serb minority -- maximum jurisdiction in order to address their concerns on security and freedom of movement.
Kosovo Serbs have been boycotting local institutions since 2004. Their representatives take part at the Vienna talks by sitting on Belgrade's side of the round table.
"It is in the Serb minority's best interests to be a part of the process of cooperation between all the citizens," Sejdiu said.
The Kosovo president did not exclude meetings with his Serbian counterparts at international conferences.
"But I'll never accept to meet (Serbian) President (Boris) Tadic as a citizen of Serbia. I am not a citizen of Serbia, nor is any citizen of Kosovo a citizen of Serbia," Sejdiu said.