Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Serbs say they will boycott second day of Kosovo talks

DPA , VIENNA

The Serbian delegation to talks in Vienna on the future of the UN-administered province Kosovo announced on Monday that they would boycott the second day of the planned two-day talks.

The Serbian delegation made their stance in response to UN mediators' intentions to make protection of Serb minority rights in largely ethnic Albanian Kosovo the topic of yesterday's talks.

The Serbian government in Belgrade has refused out of principle to discuss the topic.

Participation on talks over minority rights "means accepting that we have the status of a minority, and it is known that a people in its own country cannot be a minority," the leadership of the Serb delegation declared in Vienna.

Should the Serbian delegation not participate, the UN mediators plan to continue the talks alone with the Kosovo Albanians.

Monday marked the eighth round of negotiations, with teams from Pristina and Belgrade meeting in the Palais Auersperg to discuss matters of decentralization.

The main issue of Monday's negotiations was the authority of the new Serbian communities within the southern Serbian province, which has been under administration of the UN since 1999.

Administration of the school system, the health system and the social system were likely to be among topics of negotiation, as were the regulations of filling positions in the police and the courts.

At the end of July the question of the future status of Kosovo was discussed by presidents and prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo for the first time.

As expected, no breakthrough was reached. While Serbia offered considerable autonomy, Pristina would accept nothing less than independence.

The preceding seven rounds of negotiations on technical issues yielded few compromises, prompting UN chief envoy Martti Ahtisaari to demand more effort by both parties

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