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Serbia to act against Kosovo

Times Staff Writer

Serbia will use economic, political and diplomatic measures to stop Kosovo from declaring independence Sunday, but will avoid violence, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told an emergency Security Council session Thursday.

Jeremic said at the closed-door meeting that allowing the province to secede would do “irreparable harm” to the notion of sovereignty, and would trigger secession by other disaffected territories. He called on the Security Council to prevent the province from breaking away and asked the U.N. secretary-general to direct U.N. administrators of the province to dissolve the Kosovo Assembly, although the U.N. is unlikely to step in.

“We shall never recognize Kosovo’s independence,” Jeremic said. “Not now. Not in a year. Not in a decade. Never.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Jeremic refused to specify whether Belgrade would cut off electricity to the province or block transit to Europe, as some Serbian leaders have threatened.

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“It is a state secret,” he said. “I can just say that each and every measure is fair play.”

Kosovo, where 90% of the population is ethnic Albanian, has been run by the U.N. since 1999, when North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombs forced out Serbian troops who were killing and expelling Albanians.

A U.N. plan crafted after 18 months of failed talks calls for European Union police and administrators to take over from the U.N. in the event of independence and to guide Kosovo’s development. The secretary-general has not endorsed secession, but U.N. officials in the province are preparing for a transition, diplomats say.

Kosovo’s expected move toward independence is opposed by Russia and other nations that fear secession movements, but backed by the United States and most of the European Union, which want the stalemate to end.

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“We all know that the status quo is not sustainable,” said Britain’s ambassador to the U.N., John Sawers. “It holds back Kosovo’s economic and political development” as well as Serbia’s entry into the EU, he said.

Kosovo has closely coordinated Sunday’s expected declaration with the U.S. and EU, reportedly timing it just ahead of a Monday meeting in Brussels where some EU foreign ministers would endorse its new status.

In turn, Serbia’s ally Russia will call another emergency Security Council session to challenge the move as a violation of international law, Russian diplomats said. Moscow will argue that Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999 handing interim authority to the U.N. recognizes Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo until a political settlement is reached. Secession, they say, is a unilateral move in defiance of the U.N. charter and does not constitute a political settlement.

The U.S. and some European countries plan to immediately recognize Kosovo as an independent country and to block Russia’s moves in the Security Council, diplomats said. They counter that the territorial integrity of the former Yugoslavia only lasts as long as Kosovo’s interim status, which seems now to be ending.

“It is the consequences of the ethnic cleansing policies of [former President] Slobodan Milosevic and his government, which ensured that Kosovo will never again be ruled from Belgrade,” said U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff. “We believe that supervised independence is the appropriate way to proceed to ensure the well-being, the future of both Kosovars and Serbs.”

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maggie.farley@latimes.com


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