26 March 2006

Serb nationalist leader says Kosovo independence would mean occupation of Serb land

AP, Feb 10, 2006 11:15 AM


BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro-Top Serbian ultranationalist leader said Friday that if U.N.-run Kosovo gains independence at upcoming talks, Belgrade will declare it an occupied territory.


Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the extreme nationalist Serbian Radical Party, spoke after a meeting with conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.


Serbian leaders oppose independence for Kosovo, Serbia's southern province which has been an international protectorate since 1999 and remains a potential flashpoint.


Ethnic Albanians in the province insist Kosovo should become a separate state. Kosovo's final status is to be decided at U.N.-brokered negotiations to start later this month.


Nikolic said the Serbian parliament would hold a session on Kosovo after the start of the talks. He asserted that no politician in Serbia would accept Kosovo independence.


"If someone declares an independent Kosovo ... we will declare that an occupation and use all means to revoke that state of occupation," Nikolic said.


There was no immediate comment from Kostunica. He and Serbia's President Boris Tadic also have rejected independence for Kosovo.


Serbian leaders were angered by recent comments by a visiting senior British diplomat quoted as saying that Kosovo eventually would win independence from Serbia.


Several hundred Kosovo Serbs on Thursday demonstrated outside the British Embassy in Belgrade to protests the reported remarks by John Sawers, who is the political director of Britain's Foreign Office.


Nikolic's Serbian Radical Party is the single strongest party in the Serbian capital. It used to rule together with ex-President Slobodan Milosevic, who is currently being tried at a Netherlands-based U.N. war crimes tribunal.