Kosovo Albanian leaders have been careful not to say precisely when they plan to declare independence, and say that when they do so, it will be in co-ordination with Western supporters. Sejdiu, too, did not give an exact date.
The announcement came as a push by Russia for more talks on Kosovo ran into immediate opposition at the UN Security Council from Western countries who say such talks would be pointless and as Serbia said it would hold presidential elections in January.
The Serbian poll on January 20 will give voters a say on how the country should react to the expected secession of the province with a 90 per cent Albanian majority.
Hardliners say Serbia should turn its back on the European Union and Nato if they back Kosovo’s breakaway, and forge a new partnership with their only big power backer, Russia.
Oliver Dulic, the parliament speaker, announced the date on Wednesday, saying that new elections were a chance to strengthen democratic values and consolidate the stability of the state.
“This is especially important nowadays, having in mind challenges that Serbia has been facing, related to preserving the territorial integrity of our country,” he was quoted by the state news agency Tanjug as saying.
The long-awaited announcement has been a source of contention between the pro-Western party of Boris Tadic, the president, and the nationalists led by Vojislav Kostunica, the prime minister.
Kostunica’s party said the proclamation by Dulic “violated” a coalition agreement reached after three months of negotiation in May.
“According to that agreement, decisions such as this one should be made with the consensus of all coalition partners,” a senior party official told Tanjug.
The move was also criticised by the Socialist party of the late Slobodan Milosevic.
“At a time when there is the threat of secession of Kosovo and of new expulsion of Serbs, it is unacceptable for Serbia to face uncertainty and an election campaign that can threaten the unity of the people and the state,” it said.
Kostunica had wanted a decision on the timing of the presidential vote to be postponed until after the UN Security Council debates Kosovo on December 19.
Tadic had wanted it to be decided as early as possible, in the hope of holding the vote before the raising of the flag of an independent Kosovo fuels Serbian nationalist anger.
Meanwhile, the UN mission in Kosovo accused Serbia on Wednesday of “provocation” by opening a government office in the north of the breakaway province.
|The Serbian poll will give voters a say on how to
respond to Kosovo’s expected secession [AFP]
The opening of the office to oversee public services in the Serb half of the ethnically-divided town of Mitrovica on Monday coincided with the formal end to negotiations that failed to resolve the fate of Kosovo.
“The opening of this office is raising the level of the Serbian government presence in Kosovo,” Alexander Ivanko, a UN mission spokesman, told a news conference. “We consider this a provocative act.”
Kosovo has been under UN administration since Nato bombed Serb forces in 1999, ending a campaign against separatist ethnic Albanians.
Nato’s 16,000 troops in the province have recently stepped up patrolling in an attempt to thwart any violence between ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs.