25 March 2006

Kosovo Serbs stage protest outside British Embassy

Associated Press, Feb 09, 2006 8:06 AM


BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro-Several hundred Serbs from Kosovo rallied Thursday in front of the British Embassy in Belgrade to protest a British diplomat's alleged backing for the province's independence from Serbia.


The protesters carried pictures of Serbs killed in Kosovo, and some held photos of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.


The demonstrators were angered by reports that a senior British official suggested in talks with Serb officials that they should accept that Kosovo will gain independence in upcoming talks on the province's future status.


The southern Serbian province has been administered by the United Nations since a NATO air war drove out Serb troops in 1999.


John Sawers, political director of Britain's Foreign Office, visited both Belgrade and Pristina, Kosovo's capital, earlier this week as part of preparations for U.N.-brokered negotiations on the province's future status.


Serbs cherish Kosovo as the cradle of their history and culture and refuse to allow it to become an independent state. However, Kosovo's ethnic Albanians insist independence for the province is the only acceptable solution.


The so-called Contact Group for Kosovo, which includes the United States, Britain, Russia, Italy, Germany and France, has demanded that the solution for Kosovo be found by the end of this year.


Also Thursday, a European Union envoy for Kosovo met with Serbia's President Boris Tadic to discuss preparations for the talks. Stefan Lehne also met late Wednesday with Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and other officials.


In a statement issued after the meeting with Lehne, Kostunica said Serbia is ready for the negotiations and warned against "prejudging the future solution for the status" of the province.