Thursday, October 12, 2006

Kosovo PM trusts big powers to grant independence

LONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku said on Thursday he trusted the international community would grant the province independence by the end of the year.

"We trust the international community to drive this process through to the correct conclusion," Ceku said in a speech at Chatham House, the foreign policy think-tank, after meeting the British government on final status talks.

Ceku, a former guerrilla commander who fought Serb forces in 1999, reiterated there was only one outcome to international talks on the status of the province that would be acceptable to its 90 percent Albanian majority.

"We need independence now because we are convinced that there is no other workable solution," he said.

Kosovo has been under U.N. protection since 1999 when NATO troops took control following a bombing campaign to expel Serb forces.

The Contact Group of six countries -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia -- have led eight months of talks on Kosovo's future but have run into resolute opposition to independence from Belgrade.

Western powers fear delaying a decision could fuel Albanian suspicions and might provoke violent unrest and may have no alternative but to impose a solution.

Ceku said Serbia was alone in objecting to independence for Kosovo and that Contact Group efforts were focussed on trying to overcome its objections.

"We are all working on that and I hope we will get there soon," he said.