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Kosovo PM Optimistic Talks Will Lead To Independence Proposal


Kosovo's prime minister said Tuesday he is hopeful that talks now under way at the United Nations will soon lead to independence for the Serbian province that has a 90 percent ethnic Albanian population.

Prime Minister Agim Ceku said this is a very important week for Kosovo. Speaking at a joint news conference with Macedonia's prime minister, Ceku spoke with confidence about the Kosovo status talks chaired by Finish negotiator Martti Ahtisaari.

Those talks between Kosovo's ethnic Albanians and the Serbian government have failed to make significant progress since they were launched in February. The Serbs continue to oppose independence, the overriding objective of the Albanians. In a speech earlier this month, Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, said Kosovo has always been and will always remain the constituent part of Serbia. He accused ethnic Albanians of not being interested in serious negotiations and believing that they have been given in advance something that does not belong to them.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 when a NATO air campaign drove out Serbian forces accused of brutality against the region's ethnic Albanian majority.

In his remarks Tuesday, Ceku expressed support for Ahtisaari, saying the U.N.'s negotiator is likely to issue a positive report to both the Security Council and the five major powers most involved in Kosovo. "He has enough substance to come up with a proposal and to propose the independence of Kosovo. I'm expecting (from the New York talks) much more clarity in all this process, much more certainty, and certainly much more hope for all the people of Kosovo."

Ceku said in talks with the U.N. administration that progress has been made concerning the transition to independence and guarantees for non-Albanians.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski commended Ahtisaari for his conduct of the Kosovo negotiations. "We (are hopeful we) will come to a decision (on Kosovo) that will produce peace and security in the region," he said.

Macedonia has a large Albanian population and Mr. Gruevski's coalition includes an Albanian party. Macedonia and Kosovo share a somewhat ill-defined common border, which was not fully demarcated during the four decades that both territories were part of the former Yugoslavia. Their bilateral talks here in Skopje focused on that issue as well as economic cooperation. Both leaders say bilateral relations are good.