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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 13:59 GMT
'Practical' Kosovo talks launched
An elderly ethnic Albanian man walks past a banner depicting Kosovo's road to its future
Leaders will first discuss living standards in the province
The first substantive talks between Serbian and Kosovo representatives since the war of 1999 have begun in the Kosovan capital, Pristina.

They will initially focus on practical issues such as poor energy supplies, missing persons, the return of Serb refugees to Kosovo and transport links.

The talks were officially launched at a ceremony in Vienna last October, but there has been little progress so far.

Ethnic Albanian and Serbian leaders are divided over Kosovo's final status.

The province is currently under UN administration, but it remains part of Serbia and Montenegro.

Partition idea

The ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo wants independence, while Serbia fiercely opposes the idea.

Serbia's new nationalist Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, on Tuesday told parliament he would not let Kosovo gain independence .

Instead, he called for a "partition or cantonisation" of the province along ethnic lines.

Ethnic Albanian leaders rejected the idea.

Thursday's talks started in the UN mission headquarters in Pristina.

The EU representative chairing the meeting, Joly Dixon, called their resumption "an encouraging sign".

Up to 10,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, are thought to have died in the 1998-1999 war, which ended with Nato airstrikes on Serbia.

Tens of thousands of Serbs and other minorities have fled Kosovo since then.


SEE ALSO:
Kosovo's deep divide
13 Oct 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Serbia and Montenegro
03 Mar 04  |  Country profiles


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