Serbia rejects ‘imposed compromise’ on Kosovo

LONDON, June 27, 2006 (AFP) – Serbia will not accept an "imposed compromise" on the future of Kosovo, the country’s prime minister Vojislav Kostunica said Tuesday after talks in London with British counterpart Tony Blair.

Kostunica, his interior and economy ministers plus the head of the Co-ordinating Centre for Kosovo, Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, held a 45-minute meeting with Blair at his official Downing Street residence.

Speaking afterwards, Kostunica said he had discussed Kosovo’s future with Blair, outlining Belgrade’s proposal to solve the "difficult problem" through "substantial autonomy" for the province.

Kosovo is still legally part of Serbia, but has been run by the United Nations since 1999 when NATO drove out then Yugoslavia forces to end repression of the province’s restive ethnic Albanian majority.

UN-sponsored talks over the future status of the landlocked but strategic province have been taking place since February this year but little headway has been made.

Kostunica said his government’s proposals, which stop short of allowing Kosovo independence, would give it a form of autonomy "higher than any other European state".

There would be no change of Serbia’s borders while the rights of the Serb minority in Kosovo would be protected, he added.

Any solution should be acceptable to both Pristina and Belgrade, he said, explaining that "imposed compromise is not compromise".

"Serbia cannot accept any sort of imposed compromise," he said in English.

On the hunt for Ratko Mladic, the leading Bosnian Serb general indicted for war crimes, Kostunica insisted there was the political will in the Balkan country to bring him to justice at The Hague-based UN war crimes court.

Mladic’s continued freedom led to the suspension of talks between the European Union and Serbia in May on forging closer ties, a possible first step in it joining the 25-member bloc, after it missed a deadline to hand him over.

"The prime minister (Blair) showed particular interest in reviving negotiations," he said.

But he said they did not discuss in any detail increased co-operation with Britain to track down the fugitive general.