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Kosovo PM: Serbs Should Not Flee After Independence

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has called on ethnic Serbs to remain in Kosovo, pledging a bright future for the province after it declares independence from Serbia.

Mr. Thaci paid a symbolic visit to a Serbian family Tuesday in the village of Rubovac, south of the provincial capital, Pristina. He used the visit to call on Serbian refugees who had fled Kosovo to return home.

Mr. Thaci stressed that he will work to create a safe environment for all the citizens of Kosovo, promising to focus on the future, and not on the province's troubled past.

More than 200,000 ethnic Serbs fled Kosovo after Serbian security forces withdrew from the province in 1999, following NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia. They feared reprisal attacks from Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders are expected to declare independence in coming weeks.

Four months of internationally-mediated talks between Serbia and the province's ethnic Albanian leaders ended late last year without an agreement, as Serbia insisted on maintaining sovereignty over the area.

Russia has backed the Serbian position with the threat of vetoing any United Nations Security Council resolution recognizing Kosovo independence.

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