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Serb PM Warns of Balkan Instability if Kosovo Becomes Independent


Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica Wednesday wound up a visit to Washington where he talked about Kosovo's future with the US secretary of state and vice-president. The Serb leader stressed his country's opposition to independence for the mostly Albanian - populated province.

Mr. Kostunica warned against what he called the dangerous experiment of redrawing the map of the Balkans. Addressing an audience at Washington's National Press Club, the Serbian leader said the international community would make a huge mistake if it allows 90 percent Albanian majority Kosovo to become independent.

Independence for this constituent part of Serbia, he said, would be a violation of international law and of the United Nations charter and will not be accepted by Serbia. Saying he was satisfied with his talks with US officials, Mr. Kostunica called Kosovo a complicated problem that defies an easy solution.

"The Kosovo problem is very complicated and its consequences may be very difficult," said Vojislav Kostunica. " [And] one should be very careful in looking for a solution."

Kosovo with two million inhabitants has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 when Nato drove the Serbian forces that were fighting an Albanian insurgency out of the province. The Kosovar Albanians demand independence while Serbia offers autonomy within Serbia. The United Nations since March has been holding Kosovo status negotiations in Vienna. Those talks have failed to narrow the gap between the two sides. Mr. Kostunica says it is unrealistic for the major powers to think they can resolve Kosovo's status by the end of this year.

"If one has a complex problem, one should look for a complex solution of that problem, not a simple one," he said. "And one should at least try to look for that solution as much and for as long as it is needed."

The UN Security Council is addressing the Kosovo issue this week and the former Finnish president who is chairing the Kosovo negotiations is planning to bring the leaders of both sides together before the end of this month.