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EU FMs warn against Kosovo independence

European Union foreign ministers Monday warned Kosovo not to make any unilateral moves toward independence, after an elected Kosovo politician claimed that the Serbian breakaway province would declare independence in a few weeks.

Former rebel leader Hashim Thaci, who is expected to become prime minister of the ethnic Albanian majority province after Saturday’s election, said that parliament would declare independence right after a Dec. 10 deadline for international mediation efforts. “Mr. Thaci has to understand there is a difference between being a politician in opposition and a responsible prime minister,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for a two-day meeting of General and External Relations Affairs with other EU counterparts. He urged Thaci to focus on uniting the ethnically divided province, warning that any hasty moves could lead to isolation. Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said, “The EU has asked all parties in this climate to behave carefully. That applies to both Belgrade and Pristina.” “We are doing all we can to persuade the Kosovars not to make a unilateral declaration,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said, “A unilateral declaration would be quite, quite bad. There’s a certain explosiveness in this region.”

The European Union, the United States and Russia, the so-called Troika, have been mediating a settlement concerning the status of Kosovo. The EU representative in the Troika Wolfgang Ischinger is expected to meet Serb and Kosovo Albanian leaders in Brussels Tuesday. As differences remain large between Belgrade and Pristina, diplomats here believe that hopes of progress are slim. Serbia wants broad autonomy, but the Kosovo Albanians insist on independence. The EU is divided on whether to support independence or not, although the US backs it. “I think we still have to wait until the very last minute,” said Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado. Two more rounds of mediation are planned before December 10, said Amado, whose nation holds the rotating EU presidency. (