Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Kosovo status not linked to Montenegro vote: president

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro, May 16, 2006 (AFP) -

Kosovo's president said Tuesday that the future of the UN-run province was unrelated to this weekend's referendum on the independence of Montenegro from union with Serbia.

"We absolutely don't link the question of Kosovo's status with the status of other countries. Kosovo's status is a result of the political will of the people here," the president, Fatmir Sejdiu, told reporters.

Some 485,000 eligible voters will decide on Sunday if Montenegro is to become an independent state or remain in a federation with its bigger partner Serbia.

"We respect the will of the people in Montenegro. Their verdict will be considered by us as a result of their political will," Sejdiu said.

"The fact that we want good neighbour relations with all around us is very important to us and it is our permanent approach," he added.

The international community hopes to resolve the future status of Kosovo this year.

Legally still a province of Serbia, it has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO's air war drove out forces loyal to former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic over a crackdown against separatist ethnic Albanians.

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