The prime minister of Kosovo says the U.N.-administered province is ready for independence from Serbia, and urged the international community not to delay any longer in deciding Kosovo's future status. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

Agim Ceku told reporters in Rome Kosovo's status must be determined soon, to facilitate development in the region.

U.N.-brokered talks on Kosovo's status were to have yielded a decision late this year, but the decision is being delayed until after Serbian parliamentary elections in January.

Ceku, who is on a tour of European capitals, said he envisions an independent Kosovo as a modern democratic state that is multi-ethnic, tolerant, secular and has prospects of joining the European Union.

"We think that the only solution for Kosovo is independence, but an independence that guarantees all rights to the minorities living in Kosovo and with an international civilian and military presence that controls the implementation of the accord on the status," he said.

Ceku said he is convinced this is the only solution, because, without independence, Kosovo would not function. In addition, he said, independence would ensure stability in the province, and in the region.

Ceku said that, without a defined status, it is difficult for Kosovo to deal with transnational threats, such as terrorism, smuggling, organized crime and illegal immigration.

Serbia opposes independence, and, earlier this month, adopted a new constitution declaring Kosovo to be an "integral" part of the country.

Kosovo has been under the U.N. administration since 1999, when NATO air attacks stopped Serbia's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo's population.

Ceku met earlier in the day with Italian Prime Minister Massimo d'Alema. Italy contributes the largest number of peacekeeping forces in Kosovo.

D'Alema said that, in their meeting, the two agreed on the need for a solution to be found peacefully, with the widest participation of the protagonists involved.