"With this, we want to balance two priorities which we have put before us, one to continue with the fight for Kosovo and the other to intensify the process of European integration," he said.

Speedy integration

Serbia's co-operation with the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia over war criminals was a precondition for advancing along the long road to EU membership, which it hopes to achieve in 2012.

More than 40 nations, including 20 of the EU's 27 members, have recognised Kosovo's February 17 declaration of independence from Serbia which, along with ally Russia, fiercely opposed the move. 

The foreign ministry of Serbia's new government, which made speedy integration into the EU its main policy when it was sworn in on July 7, had proposed reinstating envoys to the bloc on Sunday.

At the time, Vuk Jeremic, Serbia's foreign minister, indicated that the new government of Mirko Cvetkovic, the country's prime minister, would be willing to "negotiate" with the bloc over its planned mission in Kosovo.

Jeremic underlined that the freezing of ties with countries from outside the EU who recognised Kosovo independence, such as the United States, would remain in force.

Mission delay

Despite Belgrade's apparent readiness to find a solution to legalising the incoming EU police and justice mission to Kosovo, dubbed Eulex, through the UN Security Council, the new administration insists it will never recognise Kosovo's independence.

On Wednesday, Jeremic met with Lamberto Zannier, head of the UN mission in Kosovo (Unmik) which is currently stationed in the area, to "discuss the shape of the international presence", a statement from the foreign ministry said.

Belgrade has protested against the 2,000-member Eulex mission, saying it lacked the backing of the United Nation's Security Council.

Unmik is expected to transfer its main responsibilities in the areas of police, law and customs to Eulex, as well as some powers to Kosovan authorities.

But Eulex's deployment has been delayed by the political situation.

Jeremic was to travel to New York for a UN Security Council session on Friday to present Serbia's views on the situation in Kosovo, his office said.

US support

On Monday, George Bush, the US president, promised Kosovo's visiting president and prime minister he would try to convince more nations to embrace formal diplomatic ties with their young country.

"I pledged that the United States would continue to work with those nations that have not recognised an independent Kosovo to convince them to do so as quickly as possible," Bush said after meeting with Fatmir Sejdiu, Kosovo's president, and  Hashim Thaci, the country's prime minister.

"I'm a strong supporter of Kosovo's independence," said Bush, who also renewed his support for Kosovo to join the Nato military alliance as well as the European Union.

Kosovo, whose two million population is 90 per cent ethnic Albanian, is seen by most Serbs as the cradle of their history, culture and Orthodox Christian religion.