( Reuters ) - Kosovo will declare independence from Serbia with Western backing the weekend after the February 3 Serbian presidential election if the nationalist candidate wins, political sources said on Wednesday.
"If (Tomislav) Nikolic wins, it's the 9th or 10th," one of the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
If pro-Western incumbent Boris Tadic wins the closely-fought race, Kosovo Albanians would be expected to wait until the following weekend, and possibly until after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on February 18, the source said.
The West is "pushing for February," the source added.
The United States and major EU powers are trying to "coordinate" a declaration of independence by the Albanian majority province after almost two years of negotiations with Serbia ended in failure in December.
The EU is preparing to deploy a 1,800-strong police and justice mission to take over from the United Nations.
U.N. veto holder Russia last year blocked a Western-backed plan for EU-supervised independence, and has warned of chaos in the fragile Balkans if Kosovo strikes out alone.
Western diplomats say some of the 27 EU member states would favor waiting until late February or early March if Tadic win's Sunday's tight run-off election, still concerned at the inevitable political fallout in Serbia of Kosovo's loss.
A senior Western diplomat told Reuters that victory for hardliner Nikolic, whose party is closely associated with the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, would undermine any calls for a delay on Kosovo.
"Expect that if Nikolic gets in, the process will be speeded up," the diplomat said.
Kosovo has been run by the United Nations and patrolled by NATO since 1999, when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces to halt the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanian civilians in a two-year counter-insurgency war.