The European Union is urging former Kosovo guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci, who appears to have won Saturday's election as prime minister, to hold back on any unilateral declaration of independence for the Serbian province. European Foreign Ministers made the appeal Monday at a meeting in Brussels, after Thaci promised ethnic Albanian supporters he would be the prime minister of an independent Kosovo. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says a hasty move to declare independence from Serbia will further isolate Kosovo, and jeopardize international support.
"Kosovo is already de facto independent from Serbia," he said. "I don't think Kosovo wants to be independent from the international community. They want to be defended, protected by NATO. They want to be supported in every other way by the European Union. I don't think he should make them independent from the international community."
Internationally supervised negotiations with Belgrade on the future status of Kosovo are scheduled to end on December 10. After his Democratic Party of Kosovo took the early lead in Saturday's elections, Hashim Thaci said he would declare Kosovo independent, in his words, "immediately" after the negotiations end.
Speaking to supporters in comments aired by the France24 television network, Thaci made clear he wants to be the prime minister of an independent Kosovo.
"Kosovo has gone one step further on the road to independence from Serbia," he said. "Today the citizens send a message to the world to say: "We are a democratic country, and we are ready to take our country towards the European Union."
Saturday's elections in Kosovo came ahead of another round of negotiations starting in Brussels on Tuesday between Serbs and ethnic Albanians on the province's future status. The talks are being facilitated by an international troika comprising the European Union, Russia and the United States.