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Serbia's New Parliament to Convene February 14


Serbia's new parliament is scheduled to convene for the first time on Wednesday to discuss Belgrade's position on the future of the breakaway province of Kosovo.

Officials said Saturday that a debate on Kosovo will follow a swearing in ceremony and a brief constituent session. Serbian voters chose the new deputies in elections on January 21.

The new 250-member assembly is expected to adopt a platform for the negotiating team that will present Belgrade's positon on Kosovo at talks in Vienna on February 21.

Those talks will include representatives from Kosovo and U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari. They orginally were scheduled to begin next week, but they were delayed at Serbia's request.

The meeting in Vienna is the last scheduled round of talks that Ahtisaari plans to hold before presenting his proposal on Kosovo to the U.N. Security Council.

Ahtisaari's plan calls for internationally supervised self-rule in Kosovo, with own constitution, national symbols and right to join international institutions.

The Serbian government has rejected Ahtisaari's proposal, saying that it violates Serbia's territorial integrity. Ethnic Albanians who make up about 90 percent of Kosovo's population, want complete independence from Belgrade. Serbia is adamantly opposed.

Kosovo has been under U.N. control since 1999 NATO air strikes drove away attacking Serbian and Yugoslav security forces following a deadly Belgrade crackdown on ethnic Albanians.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.

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