Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Serbian pime minister meets Rice; is firm on Kosovo

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2006 (AFP) -

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica on Tuesday said independence for Kosovo was "out of the question" after meeting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Kostunica said he had held constructive talks with Rice, but after the meeting he laid out a firm position on UN sponsored-talks on Kosovo's future status.

He told reporters outside the State Department that independence for Kosovo was "out of the question."

"Independence is something that the Serbian authorities cannot accept," he added.

Kostunica was also due to address a meeting Thursday of the UN Security Council. Before he left Belgrade, Serbian government spokesman Srdjan Djuric said the prime minister would "warn that every imposed solution (on Kosovo) and snatching away 15 percent of (Serbian) territory is absolutely unacceptable for Serbia."

The UN-sponsored talks on Kosovo's future status began in February, but have produced no concrete results so far. The leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority are pushing for independence, a demand the Serbian government firmly opposes, offering wide autonomy for the province.

The next round of talks -- so far focused on technical, religious and cultural issues -- is to be held later this month in Vienna.

Legally still a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations and NATO since 1999, when the alliance's air strikes ended a crackdown by forces loyal to then Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic against Albanian separatists.

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