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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Serbia rejects Kosovo trade-off
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica (left) on visit to Kosovo, 28 Jun 06
Mr Kostunica visited Kosovo amid tight security in June
Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has insisted that Kosovo will remain part of Serbia - even if that means delaying EU membership.

Mr Kostunica told the Belgrade daily Danas that EU membership conditions did not include "territorial concessions".

"Therefore, Serbia cannot be asked to do anything of the kind," he said.

Some parts of the international community had linked the two issues, he said. Kosovo has been UN-administered since Nato's 1999 air raids on Serbia.

Mr Kostunica's comments come a week after ethnic Albanian and Serbian leaders held their first face-to-face meeting since 1999 on the long-term future of the breakaway Serbian province. No breakthrough was achieved.

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The United Nations special envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, said Serbia was willing to give everything but independence, while the majority ethnic Albanians in Kosovo wanted nothing but independence.

The next round of talks on 7-8 August is expected to focus on local reform and minority rights, the Associated Press reports.

"Serbia's position will be to reiterate that Kosovo is a part of Serbia. This is not empty rhetoric, but a legal and constitutional formulation," Mr Kostunica said.

He said the solution for Kosovo was "autonomy", adding that Serbia would continue using "legal means" to defend its interests there.

Nato bombing forced the Serb army out of Kosovo in 1999, after Serbia's crackdown on ethnic Albanians had triggered a huge exodus of civilians and provoked an international outcry.


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