Kosovo PM coy over declaration date

Province's ethnic Albanian leader refuses to say when region will break from Serbia.

    Amid rising tensions, Kosovo police reported a minor explosion in the town of Mitrovica last [AFP]

    "In independent Kosovo, not one citizen will feel discriminated against or neglected. We guarantee equal rights and security. Kosovo is the homeland of all citizens," Thaci said.

    Al Jazeera exclusive

    Kosovo's difficult road ahead

    Political tensions continued over the potential declaration of independence with the Serbian president Boris Tadic saying he "will never give up fighting for our Kosovo and I will, with all my might, fight for Serbia to join the European Union."

    As he was sworn in for a second presidential term in Belgrade, Tadic said he intended to defend Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo, which the nation's constitution proclaims as an "integral" part of the country.

    Considered pro-western, Tadic opposes Kosovan independence but not at the expense of Serbia's potential European Union integration.
    No firm date
    Earlier on Friday, Kosovo's parliament convened to approve a procedure to adopt new laws that would come into effect upon independence, including measures to guarantee the safety of Serbs.
    The predominately ethnic Albanian province has been run by a UN mission since 1999, when a Nato bombing campaign drove out forces loyal to Slobodan Milosevic, the late Serbian president, after a months-long armed conflict with ethnic Albanian fighters.

    Kosovo has been run by a UN mission since
    199 after Nato bombing of Serb forces[AFP]

    If and when a declaration is made, a group of EU states - including Britain, France, Germany and Italy - is expected to recognise Kosovo's independence almost immediately, followed by the US.
    The EU is due to start sending a 2,000-strong force of police and legal experts to help the transition to independence.
    The bloc, along with the World Bank, is also preparing a donors' conference to underwrite the development of the new state, which will probably be held in June.
    Moscow's reaction
    Russia, however, suggested on Friday that an independence declaration will affect its policy on two separatist pro-Russian regions in former Soviet Georgia.
    "The declaration and recognition of the independence of Kosovo will doubtless have to be taken into account as far as the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is concerned," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
    The statement, released after Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, met the regions' leaders, did not say how Russia's policy towards the provinces might change.

    Moscow formally supports the territorial integrity of Georgia, but has granted Russian citizenship to most residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia

    The province is just days away from
    declaring its independence [AFP]

    Barnaby Phillips, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Mitrovica, said: "A meeting of Serb leaders in Mitrovica gathered from all over Kosovo, and their mood was one of deep apprehension and a lot of defiance.
    "Community leaders stood up and said, 'Let us tell the international community that if Kosovo declares independence, they can forget about northern Kosovo. This is illegal, nothing is over, we will never accept it, it is just beginning.'"
    Protest call

    Tomislav Nikolic, the acting leader of Serbia's Radical Party, has appealed to Tadic and Vojislav Kostunica, the prime minister, to arrange a massive protest.

    "If Kosovo proclaims independence on Sunday, the rally should be held in the course of next week," Nicolic, whose party's president Vojislav Seselj is being tried for war crimes in The Hague, said.
    Fatmir Sejdu, the president of Kosovo, told Al Jazeera that he wanted peace and stability after independence is declared, and that he would protect minority Serbs in the region.
    "Kosovo will be a country for all its citizens. Our institutions are committed to this. We will keep these guarantees. The citizens that love Kosovo as their own country will stay here.
    "Our approach was of course that Kosovo would have full international support, but because a few countries hesitated [in the UN], we had to take another road.
    "But Kosovo has the backing of important countries ... in the UN, the US and other democracies.
    "We want peace, stability and good relations. I give this message to president Tadic ... Kosovo is ready to build new relations, for the sake of young people and future generations," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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