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Monday, October 16, 2006


Belgrade, 16 Oct. (AKI) - Serbia's president Boris Tadic and his Albanian counterpart Alfred Moisiu on Monday took diametrically opposed stands on the future status of the breakaway province of Kosovo, most of whose overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian majority wants independence - opposed by its tiny remaining Serb minority and by Belgrade. Speaking on Monday at the end of a regional summit on organised crime and terrorism in Karadjordjevo, a tourist resort north of Belgrade, Moisiu said that "Albania's position is known," and that his country supports Kosovo independence.

"I have talked to many Serbian representatives and I told them that we should forget the past, be realistic and look to the future," said Moisiu.

"Albania doesn’t reject a compromise, but it is the only a way of solving the status question, not the solution itself," he added. Tadic retorted that Kosovo has been a part of Serbia since 1912 and that it was dangerous to change state borders. "Destabilising any state in the region would mean destabilising the entire region,” Tadic said.

Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo outnumber Serbs by 17 to one and the province has been under United Nations control since 1999 when a NATO bombing campaign drove Serb forces out amid an ethnic cleansing campaign and gross human rights abuses. Belgrade has remained vigorously opposed to independence for Kosovo - which many Serbs view as the birthplace of their state - and has indicated willingness to offer ethnic Albanians a broad form of autonomy instead.

The international community has said it wants the Kosovo status solved by the end of this year, but eight rounds of United Nations-led talks this year have so far produced a deadlock. UN special envoy for Kosovo, Finnish diplomat Martti Ahtisaari, said on Monday he would submit his proposal to make the status proposal by that deadline.

"Everybody rational would prefer a compromise solution, but if that isn’t possible a proposal would be made to the two parties [the Serbian government and ethnic Albanian negotiators] and to the UN Security Council," Ahtisaari told journalists in Luxembourg, where Serb premier Vojislav Kostunica was holding talks with the European Union troika of officials, including the European enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn.

Earlier this month Ahtissari indicated he does not believe a negotiated solution on Kosovo's future status is possible.

Meanwhile, Kosovo Albanian language media speculated on Monday that the UN might be planning to postpone a decision on the province's final status, after the six nation Contact Group containing diplomatic representatives from the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Russia, which is overseeing the negotiations, had appeared to signal its support for granting Kosovo independence by the end of this year.

Kosovo prime minister Agim Ceku told Britain's Financial times on Monday that he was worried by such prospects and that "such a development might trigger new violence in the Balkans." Russia appeared to be hardening its stance on independence for Kosovo, and he had received no guarantees during a recent to Washington, Ceku told the FT.

Ahtisaari has hinted any Kosovo status decision is likely to be postponed until after snap Serbian elections expected in December following the parliament's adoption in late September of a new constitution that states Kosovo is "an inalienable part of Serbia." The constitution has yet to be confirmed at a referendum set for 28-29 October.
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