Sunday, September 24, 2006

Albanian PM says Serbia's opposition to Kosovo independence is 'unrealistic'

TIRANA, Albania (AP) - Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha on Sunday called Serbia's opposition to Kosovo's independence unrealistic and suggested the international community may have to impose a solution to resolve the disputed province's status.

Kosovo is entering the final phase of U.N.-brokered talks that many believe will give it independence from Serbia.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people, are seeking independence. Serbs are willing to grant the province broad autonomy, but they see it as the heart of their ancient homeland and want it to remain a part of Serbian territory.

"I believe Belgrade continues to take an unrealistic stand on Kosovo's status but that lack of realism should not hamper the final solution," Berisha told a news conference.

He said a consensus between the two sides was preferable, but suggested the international community may have to impose a solution.

"In the Balkans' 150-year history all deals have been imposed. Let this (on Kosovo) be the last and the others be achieved with consensus and good understanding in a democratic Balkans, integrated into Europe," he said.

Albania has been the biggest supporter for Kosovo's independence, leading to frosty relations with Serbia. Tirana has, however, always said it has no territorial claims and does not intend to change its border.

"Albania considers the resolution of Kosovo's status, and this country's independence, as vital for Balkans' peace and stability, in accordance with the full guarantee of freedom and rights of Kosovo minorities and citizens," said Berisha.

The chief U.N. envoy for Kosovo Maarti Ahtisaari told the U.N. General Assembly last week that time was short on U.N.-brokered efforts to determine the province's future status but that he had no "fixed deadlines."

Ahtisaari is preparing to present to the U.S. Security Council his idea of what a future Kosovo should look like in response to a request by the six-nation Contact Group -- made up of the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia.

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