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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 15:06 GMT
Kosovo declaration 'not imminent'
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci - 24 Jan 2008
EU countries want Mr Thaci to wait until they are ready
Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has hinted at a possible delay before an independence declaration, dampening speculation that it may be imminent.

"On independence day, Kosovo will have finished preparing the constitution, as well as the state symbols," Mr Thaci told the BBC's Albanian Service.

Public debate on the constitution had already started, he said, and there was no point talking about days or hours.

Serbia strongly opposes a UN plan for Kosovo independence.

But the US and many countries within the European Union support it.

Mr Thaci told the BBC on Wednesday that the aim was for Kosovo's politicians, institutions and citizens to move into independence as one.

"I believe it is not necessary to discuss whether it [the proclamation of independence] is a matter of hours, days or minutes, or whether it will happen this Sunday, this Tuesday or Thursday," he said.

"It is important that Kosovo is in the end phase of the official preparations for organising the proclamation of independence."

It is not clear how long Kosovo's constitutional debate will last, but political observers in the provincial capital Pristina say it is unlikely to take more than two weeks.

Recently Mr Thaci said a declaration of independence was "an issue of days".

Serbia election impact

Serbia holds a deciding run-off vote in its presidential election on Sunday, and both candidates oppose independence for Kosovo.

One of them, Serbian President Boris Tadic, made a surprise visit to Kosovo on Thursday, promising local Serbs that the disputed province would always remain part of Serbia.

Serbia map

EU states have asked Kosovo's leadership to let an EU civilian mission take over from the UN in the province before declaring independence.

A police and judicial staff of about 1,800 is being prepared to work in tandem with the existing Nato force that went into Kosovo in 1999.

Mr Thaci again said an independence declaration would be made in co-ordination with the EU and the US.

Russia insists any change in Kosovo's status must have the backing of Belgrade as well as Pristina.

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