Kosovo's new president to meet ethnic Albanian team

Kosovo's newly elected president will meet with the ethnic Albanian negotiating team Saturday in preparation for U.N.-mediated talks on the province's future status. Fatmir Sejdiu, who was elected Friday by Kosovo's lawmakers, moved quickly to gather the ethnic Albanian leaders that will negotiate with Serb officials to determine whether the province becomes independent or remains linked to Serbia.

They meet for the first time under Sejdiu's chairmanship and since the death of President Ibrahim Rugova, the leader that dominated province's politics for 16 years and became a symbol of its quest for independence from Serbia. The team, led by the president and comprised of Kosovo's prime minister, two opposition leaders and the head of the assembly, is expected to discuss position papers for the upcoming start of talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

The negotiations are expected to take place around Feb. 20 in Vienna, Austria after suffering several delays, most recently with Rugova's death last month. The first round of talks will deal with the reform of local government, aimed at giving Serbs and other minorities greater say in areas where they live.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since NATO launched a bombing campaign to end a Serb crackdown on independence-minded ethnic Albanian rebels in 1999. Western diplomats have recently indicated that Kosovo's quest for independence from Serbia was conditional on it becoming a democracy that respects minority rights with reform of local government being a key to that goal, reports the AP.


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