Serbia-Montenegro president cancels visit of Slovenia

The president of Serbia-Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, on Thursday canceled an upcoming visit by Slovenia's leader Janez Drnovsek over his comments on Kosovo's future, a statement from the president's office said. Marovic said he had "looked forward very much" to the Nov. 2 visit, meant to "improve friendly relations and strengthen already flourishing political and economic ties" between the two ex-Yugoslav countries.

Drnovsek made the comments during a speech in Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital. He named security and rights for the Serb minority in Kosovo, as well as protection of Serb cultural heritage there, as key conditions for Kosovo's independence.

The status of the U.N.-administered province is a highly contentious issue - Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians demand full independence while Belgrade and Kosovo's Serb minority insist it remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia.

Kosovo has been run by a U.N. mission and NATO peacekeepers since a 1999 air war halted Serbia's crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians there. U.N.-mediated talks on its final status are expected to start later this year.

But some leaders from the region - such as Albanian President Alfred Moisiu last week and now Drnovsek - have spoken in favor of Kosovo's independence, prompting criticism from Belgrade.

Marovic said in the letter that only "by refraining from interference in internal matters of other countries and avoiding all bias and suggestions that may prejudice talks on Kosovo's future" can the two sides "reach acceptable, stable long-term solutions." A.M.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team