Friday, March 17, 2006

Talks resume on Kosovo's future

Hashim Thaci says Kosovo's dark past will be buried with Milosevic

Ethnic Albanian and Serbian officials have resumed talks in Vienna on the long-term future of Kosovo.

The province has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when Nato troops forced the Serbian army to withdraw.
The Serbian delegation has complained that the ethnic Albanian team is headed by former rebel Hashim Thaci, whom Belgrade accuses of terrorism.

The talks are focusing on local government reform, especially in areas inhabited largely by ethnic Serbs.
A spokesman for the UN special envoy at the talks said the mediators were expecting a constructive discussion.

However, the two sides have disagreed so far over how much power should be held locally, with Serbian officials insisting that ethnic Serbs should be allowed to run affairs in their communities, link up with other Serbian areas, and have special ties to Belgrade.
Ethnic Albanians have rejected the Serbian proposals, saying they would lead to the partition of the province along ethnic lines.

Dark past
The Serbian delegation said Mr Thaci's appointment to lead the Kosovo team was a provocation, but added that Serbs would "not be forced away from the negotiating table".
Mr Thaci declined to comment on the Serb protest, but also said his negotiating team would try to find common ground.
"No-one can stop the future of democratic Kosovo," he said. "Its dark past will be buried tomorrow with Milosevic in Serbia."

The former Yugoslav president died at the weekend and his body has been sent back to Serbia from The Hague, where he was standing trial for war crimes.
It was the Nato bombardment that drove Slobodan Milosevic's forces from the province in 1999.

Kosovo's new Prime Minister Agim Ceku, who was sworn in earlier this month, has said he expects the territory to become fully independent of Serbia - something Belgrade says it would oppose. BBC

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