Independent Kosovo would increase regional stability, Albania says

Albanian President Alfred Moisiu wrote a letter to his Kosovo counterpart Ibrahim Rugova, saying the talks would confirm its ethnic Albanian population's will of independence. The Security Council on Monday endorsed starting talks on Kosovo's future, clearing the way for what tough negotiations on the ethnically divided province's status after six years under U.N. administration. Tough diplomatic negotiations are expected in overcoming the central disagreement between the Kosovo government and Serbia: Kosovo wants full independence, and Serbia refuses to give it.

Kosovo, formally part of Serbia-Montenegro, became an international protectorate in 1999, after NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days to stop a crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatist rebels.

Earlier this week on a visit to Tirana Kosovo's Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi said he was convinced that Kosovo would become an independent country next year, offering all the required guarantees to its minorities.

Kosumi also asked for Tirana's assistance and close cooperation during talks on the province's status.

Tirana has declared no one should fear that Albania could join with Kosovo saying it has no territorial claims, adding that Kosovo needs a continuous NATO presence "as a determining factor for preserving the balance of security." A.M.

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