Monday, September 25, 2006

Slovak foreign minister says status quo in Kosovo is "impossible"

WASHINGTON (AP) - Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubis said Monday U.N.-sponsored talks on Kosovo must resolve the territory's future status because "the status quo is impossible."

Kubis, making his first visit here since his appointment, said the majority Kosovar Albanians must do all in their power to reach out to the Serb minority.

"There must be incentives for Serbs in Kosovo to stay there," he said, speaking at a forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He said the Albanians must not merely meet the minimal expectations of the Serbs but instead acquiesce "to the top line of their expectations."

Kubis came here for official talks after attending the U.N.. General Assembly session in New York.

Kosovo is entering the final phase of U.N.-brokered talks that many believe will give it independence from Serbia. Former President Maarti Ahtisaari gave a briefing on the Vienna talks on Friday to the U.N. Security Council.

Serbian authorities in Belgrade are lobbying hard against independence for Kosovo. They warn that granting independence to the territory could trigger a wave of similar claims by nationalist groups in other countries of the region.

The United Nations has administered Kosovo since 1999. Albanians account for 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million population.

On another subject, Kubis said NATO should send a signal at its November summit in Riga of a willingness to extend expand its membership.

"We must not wait until 2008," Kubis said. Albania is among the possible candidates for membership.

Slovakia has troops in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition. The troops will be withdrawn in the coming months but Kubis said his country will remain in Iraq as part of a NATO training program.

"We will remain staunch allies of the United States," he said.

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