( dpa ) - Kosovo's government will very soon give a clear statement on when it intends to declare independence, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said during a visit to Brussels on Thursday. "Kosovo is ready, is united, and I think we'll proclaim the date (of independence) in Pristina very soon," Thaci said after talks with EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana. "We have discussed many things - the constitution, the symbols. Kosovo is ready for independence. It's an issue of days," he said. Solana, when asked if he had discussed the date of any such declaration with Thaci, answered "No, I did not," but added that he had agreed to maintain contacts with the Kosovo Albanians. Serbia is to hold the final round of its presidential election on February 3, with ultra-nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic having taken the lead over pro-EU incumbent Boris Tadic in the first round. Kosovo is the most heated issue on the agenda, with nationalists accusing the EU of wanting to steal the province from them. EU officials have been careful to steer clear of any comments which could inflame the situation ahead of the crucial vote. "The issue is a very sensitive one and we are in a very sensitive political context in which it is better to resort to diplomatic means than public statements," a spokeswoman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told journalists. Thaci and Rehn discussed "the European perspective of Kosovo and the whole region of the Western Balkans as well as the issue of the settlement of Kosovo's status," she said. Rehn "reiterated the EU's readiness to carry its responsibility by steering a coordinated and managed process to finalize the settlement of Kosovo's status," she said. The question of what to do when Kosovo declares independence is the most divisive issue in the EU at present. A majority of member states favour recognizing the new state, but some have said that to do so would spark separatist moves elsewhere. Serb nationalists have expressed outrage at what they see as EU support for an attempt to break up their country. Nikolic has gone on the record as saying that Serbia will never join the EU, and that he regrets the country is not a province of Russia. However, EU officials insist that Serbia's future is as a part of the bloc. Just hours after meeting Thaci, Rehn met with a Serbian delegation to discuss Serbia's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). EU leaders have said that they will not sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) paving the way to candidate status for Serbia until it cooperates fully with the ICTY. Rehn "reiterated his strong commitment to Serbia's European future, and would like to sign the SAA soon, once the conditions are fulfilled," the spokeswoman said. EU foreign ministers are set to debate the Kosovo issue Monday in what promises to be a tense discussion.
Kosovo premier promises independence date "very soon"
24 January 2008 20:21 (UTC+04:00)