Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kosovo will never be independent for Serbia - Kostunica

BELGRADE, Sept 12, 2006 (AFP) -

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Tuesday that independence-seeking Kosovo would "always be a part of Serbia" despite ongoing UN-sponsored talks over the future status of the province.

In an address to the parliament session debating the course of the talks between Belgrade and Pristina, Kostunica said that Serbia should adopt a new constitution declaring Kosovo an "integral part" of the republic.

"For the state of Serbia, Kosovo will never be independent," Kostunica told the deputies.

With a majority of votes -- 219 of 224 deputies present at the session -- parliament adopted the decision to introduce such a motion in a future constitution, expected to be agreed on by next year.

Negotiations on the future status of Kosovo started in February under UN auspices in Vienna but no concrete results have been reached yet. Though still technically a part of Serbia, predominantly ethnic Albanian populated Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999.

Kostunica, a moderate nationalist, said Serbia has been "requested to give up Kosovo... and agree on an unprecedented intention to form an independent Albanian state on our territory."

"Kosovo has always been and will be forever Serbia's component part. There will be no other answer from Serbia, as long as it exists," Kostunica told the deputies.

International officials want to finalize the talks on the future status of Kosovo by the end of this year.

But the two sides have remained deeply entrenched in their positions: with Belgrade offering "wide autonomy" within Serbian territory to Kosovo, and resident ethnic Albanians accepting nothing but independence.

Kostunica told the deputies that Serbia would reject "any solution that would not be the result of an agreement and compromise."

Addressing the parliament, Serbian pro-Western President Boris Tadic also ruled out an independent Kosovo, saying Belgrade would use all "legal means to defend our province".

Serbia lost de facto control of the province after a NATO bombing campaign in 1999 that forced troops under the command of then-president Slobodan Milosevic to leave Kosovo and end their crackdown on separatist Albanian rebels.

Some 200,000 Serbs have since fled the province fearing attacks from ethnic Albanian hardliners. Those who have remained live in enclaves under heavy NATO protection.

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