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Incoming Albanian Leader Sets Out Goals

Prime Minister-designate Berisha (file photo) 26 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Prime Minister-elect Sali Berisha stressed in a wide-ranging interview with RFE/RL today that his new government's priorities will be fighting corruption, setting up a state based on the rule of law, and establishing the basis for economic development.

Berisha, a former Albanian president who heads the country's Democratic Party, is expected to take office as prime minister in early September.

Berisha said he wants to see Albania integrated into NATO and the EU and known as a country that welcomes foreign investment, although he admitted those goals will not be easy.

Turning to the subject of Kosova, a UN-administered province that is heavily populated by ethnic Albanians, Berisha told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service that he is opposed to any change of international borders in the Balkans, including those of Kosova.

A lasting solution to the Kosova question must take into account the wishes of its citizens, Berisha stressed, as well as the views of local officials and the international community, including the UN Security Council. He said that delaying talks on Kosova's final status is not in the interest of Kosova or the region, and those talks must respect the Kosovars' wishes for self-determination, which means independence.

Berisha added that his government will stress the importance of ensuring minority rights in Kosova, including those of the Serbian minority, as a guarantee of independence, peace, and stability for Kosova. It is important to treat the local Serbs as citizens of Kosova with full equality before the law and the right to develop their national and cultural identity, he stressed.

Dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade on the many bilateral questions affecting them is of great importance, Berisha argued. But he added that Belgrade should not be involved in Kosova's status talks, which are the business of the citizens of Kosova, the local authorities, the major international powers involved in the region, and the members of the Security Council, led by the United States.

Berisha made it clear that his party and its coalition partners intend in no uncertain terms to maintain Albanian's involvement in the struggle against terrorism. The government will stand firmly beside the United States and other countries on such issues, he said.

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