Serbian leaders discuss strategy as Kosovo independence looms

Other News Materials 12 February 2008 03:10 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- Serbian leaders on Monday met to prevent a potential collapse of the cabinet, confirming that the government needs to define a plan of action with the independence of its breakaway province of Kosovo looming.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, President Boris Tadic and parliamentary Speaker Oliver Dulic concluded that a serious threat of an "illegal, unilateral proclamation of Kosovo's independence exists," a statement from the cabinet said.

"Because of this, all state institutions must agree on the needed steps for annulling such an act," the statement said.

Kosovo's leaders and majority ethnic Albanian population are expected to proclaim independence soon, with February 17 rumoured as the possible date.

In preparation, Tadic has called a meeting of the National Security for Tuesday to review its action plan for the event that independence is proclaimed.

Kostunica scheduled a cabinet meeting for Thursday, at which a document for annulling a potential independence proclamation is to be prepared and readied for adoption by the parliament once Albanian officials in Pristina make their move.

The meeting between Tadic and Kostunica came after tensions reached a fever pitch last week in the fragile coalition between the president's Democratic Party (DS) and the premier's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) over links between Serbia's European path and the fate of Kosovo.

The pro-European, recently re-elected Tadic has pushed for the signing of a political and economic deal offered by the European Union to confirm and stimulate Serbia's European perspective, stating that the deal was in no way tied to the Kosovo question.

The nationalist Kostunica said that the EU had offered the deal as an incentive to soften the blow of losing Kosovo, as Brussels prepares to send an administrative mission to the province and send Kosovo on its way to internationally-supervised independence.

With both sides unwilling to budge - Kostunica refusing to call a cabinet session and DS official Oliver Dulic unwilling to schedule a parliamentary meeting - a collapse of the government looked imminent.

Though his party formed a coalition with Tadic, Kostunica's politics are closer to the opposition Serbian Radical Party, which calls for a severing of relations with all countries who recognize Kosovo's independence.

The United States and a vast majority of the EU support Kosovo's independence, while Serbia's efforts to maintain sovereignty over the province are supported by Russia, which has blocked efforts to grant Kosovo independence via the United Nations Security Council.