Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Albanian PM calls for independence for Kosovo

Albania's prime minister on Tuesday called for independence for Kosovo, a U.N.-governed province of Serbia with a mostly ethnic Albanian population.

"We think that Kosovo's final status ... should respect the wish for independence expressed by the people of Kosovo," Sali Berisha told the parliamentary assembly of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe.

"I think that independence for Kosovo is essential for its economic development and crucial for both its stability and that of the region."

The United Nations is expected to decide within months whether to grant Kosovo a form of supervised independence, seven years after NATO wrested control of the province from Serbia to stop what it said was becoming a bloodbath.

Serbia says Kosovo's amputation would violate international law and embolden ethnic separatists across Europe and its parliament is set to adopt a new state constitution that enshrines Kosovo as Serb land forever.

However, an opinion poll published last week showed just 12 percent of Serbs believe Belgrade would hold on to Kosovo. The province's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority favors independence from Serbia.

Berisha made it clear that it was unlikely that Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians could come to an agreement on their own.

"The only possibility which remains is an imposed agreement as has been the case with all the important accords in the history of the Balkans in the last 150 years," he said.