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Serbia urges world to warn Kosovo against unilateral independence

Serbia on Tuesday urged the international community to send a clear message to Kosovo that its unilateral declaration of independence is illegal, invalid, and dangerous, news from Belgrade said.

“The insistence on unilateral independence of Kosovo is illegal and dangerous. The international community must react immediately to this real threat and send a clear message about that,” Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in a talk with visiting Dutch Foreign Minister Maxim Verhagen. Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku said on Monday that Kosovo expects to declare independence after the new talks with Belgrade end on December 10, and urged its Western partners to recognize it.

Speaking of a new round of negotiations to begin in Vienna this week, Ceku said that Kosovo would remain a stable region, provided the West moves quickly to recognize it as “Europe’s newest state.” In his talks with visiting Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas, Kostunica warned that the effects of Kosovo’s unilateral independence would be negative, and that it would set a dangerous precedent for other regions in a similar situation. In another development, the out-going German commander of NATO-led peacekeeping forces in Kosovo said on Tuesday that the decision on the final status of Kosovo should be made as soon as possible.

Lieutenant General Roland Kather, to be replaced by his deputy French Lieutenant General Xavier de Marnhac, also said the peacekeepers would remain in the Kosovo with the same strength and mandate for this and next year. NATO is now deploying about 16,000 forces in the Serbia’s southern breakaway province, which has been run by the UN since 1999 after 78 days of bombing drove out the Serbian forces fighting Albanian separatists.

Serbia has stated repeatedly that Kosovo is an integral part of its territory and vowed to keep it in its fold while Kosovo, where 90% of its population is ethnic Albanians, had said it will accept nothing short of independence. A troika of envoys from the United States, the European Union and Russia will chair a new round of talks on the final status of Kosovo in Vienna later this month. It is widely suspected that the talks would lead nowhere, however. (