Saturday, July 14, 2007

Kostunica says USA "insults" Serb intelligence

BELGRADE, July 11 (Reuters) - Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica on Wednesday accused the United States of insulting his country's intelligence by pledging friendship while backing independence for breakaway Kosovo province.

He vowed that no amount of declarations by Washington would make Kosovo independent and again warned that future relations would suffer if the United States and its European Union allies back independence for Kosovo's two million ethnic Albanians.

Kostunica has made Kosovo the top policy issue for Serbia's two month old government, although polls show most Serbs are far more concerned about jobs, wages and prosperity.

He has turned to Russia for help in blocking Kosovo's independence, and his rhetoric has become anti-Western.

"Kosovo will not be independent and that fact cannot be changed by American officials with their daily statements advocating independence for the province," he said in a statement given to the government-backed news agency, Tanjug.

Kostunica was responding to comments by U.S. envoy Daniel Fried, who on Tuesday reaffirmed American friendship for Serbia while repeating that Kosovo would inevitably be independent.

"It is particularly unacceptable to explain this attempted seizure of Kosovo as a form of honest friendship towards Serbia," the Serbian premier said.

"Such an explanation is an insult to common sense."

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic on Tuesday called independence for Kosovo "an indecent proposal".

Serb forces killed between 7,500 and 12,000 Kosovo Albanians in the 1998-99 counter-insurgency war and drove 800,000 out of the country before NATO intervened with a bombing campaign. That forced the Serbs out after 11 weeks and ushered in United Nations rule eight years ago.

Serbia's demand to reassert sovereignty includes an offer of autonomy for the Albanians -- who make up 90 percent of the population -- but does not include Serbian citizenship.

The West wants the United Nations Security Council to resolve Kosovo's status this year. A new draft resolution proposes 120 days of further talks to seek a compromise -- which diplomats say is currently very hard to imagine.

Rumours are rife that partition is the only viable solution that the two sides might agree on, but neither Serbs nor Kosovo Albanians nor any outside power has yet proposed it.

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