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Serbia: President Warns Against Kosovo Independence

Tadic is preparing for a showdown over Kosovo. (AFP) Serbian President Boris Tadic has reiterated that his country will not accept Kosovo's independence, which some expect to happen as early as this month. Tadic called for renewed talks on the issue and he warned of an escalation in regional conflicts if Kosovo's ethnic Albanians declare independence.

Tadic has once again warned the European Union and United States against backing Kosovo's independence.

"We must all be very careful about cutting corners," Tadic said. "I say to you that we must remain vigilant about the dangers of expediency and take seriously the strategic priorities we all share."

The pro-Western leader was speaking on the eve of the Munich Conference on Security Policy, which begins on February 9. His comments came after reports suggested Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian leadership may be planning to declare independence on February 17 or 18.

'A Done Deal'

On February 7 in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, Kosovar Prime Minister Hasim Thaci reiterated that the province was prepared to declare independence.

"The issue of Kosovo's independence is a done deal," Thaci said. "We've been requested to finalize all the details. As you can see, the Kosovo government and all our institutions are totally devoted to finalizing this in the most successful way."

The United States and most EU members say they will support Kosovo's independence.

But Tadic said this could result in the escalation of existing conflicts, the reactivation of frozen conflicts, and the possible instigation of new conflicts.

Tadic insisted that he did not want to see Serbia isolated from the European Union, and he welcomed EU plans to increase its presence in Serbia's southern province.

"We welcome as a matter of principle any demonstration of Europe's deepening commitment to the western Balkans and for that reason we welcome the EU's desire to increase its presence in our southern province of Kosovo," Tadic said.

The EU is likely to approve a 1,800-strong mission of legal and law-enforcement advisers to Kosovo when the bloc's foreign ministers meet on February 18.

Thorny Relationships

Meanwhile, Serbia's relations with the EU have balanced on the hedge of collapse. Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica spurned an EU offer to sign a cooperation treaty on February 7 in Brussels, saying it would come at the cost of Kosovo's independence.

Russia entered the fray on February 6, when its ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told journalists that Kosovo will be "a thorn" in EU-Russia dialogue. Russia has blocked a UN agreement on Kosovo's independence.

The EU had held out concessions linked to visas, trade, and educational exchanges in response to Tadic's reelection as Serbia's president on February 3. The treaty would also have reaffirmed Serbia's future in the EU.

RFE/RL Balkan Report

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