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Former Guerrilla Chief Says Kosovo Will Not Rush Independence Move


Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci says Kosovo will not rush into declaring independence from Serbia, without the cooperation of its international partners.

The former guerilla leader, who is claiming victory in Saturday's election for prime minister, said Kosovo will do nothing without coordination with the United States and the European Union. He made the comments as he arrived in Brussels Tuesday for a new round of talks with Serbia on the future status of the province.

Talks between negotiators for Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority are scheduled to end December 10. Little progress has been made so far and few people involved in the talks are voicing hope for any breakthroughs.

Negotiators for both sides met separately today with U.S., Russian and European Union mediators, ahead of face-to-face talks.

Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica are heading the Belgrade team. Their counterparts from Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu and Agim Cheku, lead the Pristina team.

Kosovo and its 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority are demanding independence from Serbia. The Serbs and their Russian allies fiercely oppose the idea.

EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger was expected to propose a so-called neutral status agreement for the disputed province. It would allow Belgrade and Pristina to agree on trade, border and other practical matters without addressing the contentious issue of independence.

Ischinger has voiced optimism that some progress could be achieved in today's talks.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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