Monday, July 24, 2006

Kosovo independence inevitable, says EU stability pact chief

BERLIN, July 24, 2006 (AFP) -

Kosovo's ethnic Albanians will win their bid for independence of the province, the special coordinator of the stability pact for the Balkans, Erhard Busek, said on Monday.

"It is without doubt a long-term process, but at the end it will lead to independence," Busek told Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders met in Vienna on Monday for their first face-to-face talks since NATO aerial bombing drove Serbian forces from the province in 1999.

Busek said: "It is a success that this meeting is taking place at all."

Ethnic Albanians, who make up the majority of the province, want independence but Belgrade and Kosovo's minority Serb community say the region is the cradle of the Serb nation and cannot be allowed to break away.

In a separate interview with Bayerischer Rundfunk radio, Busek said the Serb position "did not reflect the realities of today".

"The ethnic Albanians of Kosovo believe independence is already a reality. But on the Serb side they are defending the not very realistic viewpoint that things can continue as they were before," Busek said.

The stability pact was created by the European Union in 1999 to reinforce the stability in the Balkans after the conflicts of the 1990s.

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