Independent Kosovo will brings peace, Albanian premier says

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said an independent Kosovo would bring peace and stability to the Balkans, and appealed to the neighboring province's ethnic Albanians to create conditions allowing the Serb minority there a normal life. In a television talk show late Thursday, Berisha suggested the Kosovo parliament declare an amnesty "as an act to show that any Serb may return to Kosovo."

"I stand to the idea of respecting the Kosovo Serbs' rights and freedom ... as well as I defend the view that independence is the only solution that produces peace and stability," Berisha said. He also stressed the importance of continuing dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo remains officially part of Serbia, the dominant republic in the Serbia-Montenegro union that replaced Yugoslavia. But it has been administered by the United Nations and NATO since the alliance's 1999 air war halted former President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists and expelled Serb troops from the province.

Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority, is to enter talks this year on its future political status, which are likely to increase tensions in the deeply polarized region.

The ethnic Albanians want complete independence, while Serbia wants to retain some formal control over its southern province. Tirana has declared it has no territorial claims on Kosovo and that no one should fear Albania could join with the province. It has also said that Kosovo needs a continuing NATO presence, reports the AP. I.L.

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