Serbian president rejects idea of independent Kosovo

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority wants independence but Belgrade and Kosovo’s minority Serb community insist the region is the cradle of Serb nationhood and cannot be given away, Business Day reports.

The talks are the first chance for the Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leadership, whose relations are poisonous at the best of times, to directly exchange their opposing views on the future of the southern Serbian province.

But the Vienna summit of Serbian and Kosovo prime ministers and presidents, mediated by the UN envoy and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, merely underlined the starkly opposing positions on the issue of Kosovo's independence. "The sides are quite apart," he said at the end of the one-day summit, Guardian Unlimited reports.

Six months into UN-mediated talks on the ultimate status of the territory that has been under international rule since Nato bombed the Serbs out of Kosovo in 1999, the presidents and prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo met at a former Habsburg palace to argue about independence for Kosovo.

"Independence is the alpha and omega, the beginning and end of our position," Kosovo's president, Fatmir Sejdiu, told the meeting. Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian prime minister, flatly rejected independence for the southern province.

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