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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 19:20 GMT
New Kosovo PM wants independence
Agim Ceku
Agim Ceku promised to protect the rights of Kosovo's Serb minority
Kosovo's new PM has said he expects the territory to become fully independent of Serbia - hours after Belgrade said it would oppose any such outcome.

Agim Ceku was speaking after being sworn in as prime minister in Pristina.

Serbian foreign minister Vuk Draskovic earlier told the BBC his country could never accept an independent Kosovo.

The UK has meanwhile said independence for Kosovo - currently governed by the UN, though formally still part of Serbia - is "almost inevitable".

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Kosovo's status could not be resolved using any solution based on the situation before 1999, when the province was still fully controlled by Belgrade.

Nato air strikes in 1999 forced Serbian forces to withdraw from the province, where they had been accused of repressing the ethnic Albanian majority.

Kosovo has since then been a UN protectorate. This year saw the start of UN-brokered talks to decide whether it ultimately gains independence.

Serb concerns

Mr Ceku said on Friday that he wanted negotiations to lead to a democratic and tolerant Kosovo.

"The creation of the state of Kosovo is the will of its people and this government," he said.

Mr Ceku was sworn in as prime minister following the resignation last week of his predecessor, Bajram Kosumi, who lost his party's support in a reshuffle.

In his first speech as leader, Mr Ceku pledged to protect the rights of Kosovo's minority Serb community.

Switching from the Albanian language to Serbian, he said the Serbs "do have and will have a future in democratic Kosovo" and urged them to take part in political life.

Mr Ceku is an ethnic Albanian commander whose soldiering career started in the army of the former Yugoslavia.

He went on lead the guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in their fight against Serbian forces.

Belgrade accuses him of war crimes against Serbs and has voiced disquiet at his appointment as PM.

Kosovo's 120-seat parliament backed Mr Ceku's nomination by 65 votes to 33 on Friday.

Popular

Earlier on Friday, the Serbian foreign minister said his country could never accept a fully independent Kosovo.

Mr Draskovic told the BBC that the result would be a humiliation for Serbia, dangerous for the region and the whole of Europe.

The province is still legally part of Serbia and Montenegro - but it has been under UN protection since 1999.

Mr Ceku is currently the head of the Kosovo Protection Corps, a civil emergency force.

He is said to be very popular among Kosovo Albanians and has been seen as a dynamic leader.

Kosovo Albanians, who make up the majority, want independence for the province. But Serbia is concerned about the rights of the Serb minority.







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