15 November 2006

Kosovo Serbs called best-protected group

UPI, November 1, 2006

BELGRADE, Serbia, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- A U.S. envoy says minority Serbs in Serbia's mainly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo province will be the best protected national group in the Balkans.

Frank Wisner, U.S. envoy in talks on Kosovo's future status, told Serbian leaders in Belgrade that Washington wants the U.N.-led talks between the Serbian government and leaders of ethnic-Albanians to be completed this year, Belgrade's B92 radio-television reported Wednesday.

In an interview with B92, Wisner said the United States hopes the talks will be completed with as much cooperation and compromise as possible.

The Serbian government in Belgrade, representing about 100,000 Serbs in Kosovo, and the leaders of ethnic-Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's population of 1.8 million have shown in the talks, begun in February, their stands are diametrically opposed.

The ethnic-Albanian leaders insist on Kosovo's independence from Belgrade, while the Belgrade government says Kosovo will always be an integral part of Serbia.

The U.N. civil administration and NATO protection troops have been deployed in Kosovo since 1999 to contain ethnic armed conflicts.