Montenegro independence referendum will have no effect on the Kosovo talks, mediator says

Serbia, with 8 million people, and Montenegro, which has 650,000 inhabitants, are the only two states that remained together after wars and break up of the six-part Yugoslav federation in the early 1990s.

Kosovo is legally part of Serbia proper. But the impoverished region of 2 million people - 90 percent of them ethnic Albanians - has been under U.N. administrative control since 1999, when NATO halted Serb forces' crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

The current talks under Ahtisaari's auspices are aimed at determining the region's future status.

The European Union, which is worried that the dissolution of the loose union between Serbia and Montenegro could destabilize the region and make agreement on Kosovo more difficult, has sought to dissuade Montenegro from scheduling the vote. The EU also has made things harder for the secessionist camp, saying that more than 55 percent of voters must opt for independence for the result to be recognized, the AP reports.

But Ahtisaari, who was in Brussels to discuss Kosovo with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, dismissed such concerns.

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