Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said his country stands ready to help with negotiations to find a solution to Kosovo's disputed status. Paroubek said that Kosovo, as well as Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia should have a "European future," as part of the attempts to resolve their problems. The U.N. Security Council has given the green light for the start of negotiations on Kosovo's future status. The talks are expected to start within weeks.
Paroubek met with Kosovo's ailing President Ibrahim Rugova, Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi and visited some of the 500 Czech troops who are part of the 17,500 strong NATO-led peacekeeping force in the province.
"Kosovo wants to create a new European state, which would become an EU member one day," Kosumi said after the meeting.
The province has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombing halted Serb forces' crackdown against separatist ethnic Albanians.
Serbia is hoping to retain at least formal control over Kosovo, but the province's ethnic Albanian majority is insisting on full independence, according to the AP.
Paroubek and Kosumi also discussed the possibility of investment by Czech companies in the province's energy sector.
Kosovo has some of the biggest coal reserves in the region. But its dilapidated thermal plants are prone to breakdowns, making power-cuts a daily occurrence in the province.
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