The head of the International Crisis Group research agency in Serbia, James Lyon, says the Belgrade government appears to be intent on dividing the mostly Albanian province of Kosovo. Lyon spoke Friday at a Radio Free Europe forum in Washington.

Speaking in Washington, Lyon said the Serbian government has decided that it wants the separation of Serbian and ethnic Albanian areas of Kosovo. Evidence of the decision, he said, comes from the increasing number of propaganda pieces in state-controlled media and the rehabilitation of several Milosevic era ideologues. "All the preparations have been completed. And the Serbian government literally can flip a switch and partition Kosovo," he said.

The area in question is largely populated by Serbs, comprises less than a quarter of Kosovo's territory, and is adjacent to Serbia proper. In a real sense, said Lyon, the partition has already occurred. "All of the telephone infrastructure has been rerouted both from the enclaves and from the north, northern Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok, and those areas. The electricity infrastructure has been completely rerouted. As we're all aware the administrative, educational, judicial, police infrastructure is all dependent on Belgrade," he said.

While still technically a province of Serbia, the United Nations is likely later this year to put Kosovo on a road to independence. Ninety percent of Kosovo's population is ethnic Albanian.

Agim Ceku, Kosovo's prime minister, rejects the assertion that Kosovo is already divided. "That's not true. Kosovo is one unit. Yes, in the north the majority are Serbs who live there. (But) Unmik (the United Nations administration) has authority over all Kosovo. Kfor (the NATO led force) is there," he said.

Speaking to VOA in Washington, Ceku said he does not believe there will be a partition. "There is a temptation for a soft partition, if we recognize this. But it's just a temptation. It will not be allowed by the international community, which has decided there will be no partition in Kosovo," he said.

United Nations led talks in Vienna on Kosovo's future are deadlocked with the Serbs refusing to consider the independence that the ethnic Albanian majority insist upon. Altogether, there are less than 100 thousand Serbs in Kosovo and only half of them live in the area adjacent to Serbia proper.