Serbian government to reject Kosovo's independence

(dpa) - The Serbian government was set Thursday to reject the expected declaration of independence by Kosovo and send a message to the UN Security Council ahead of its debate on the breakaway province later in the day.

"It is the final word of our consolidated state and national policy that no other than Serbia may lay claim on the territory of Kosovo," Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in a statement Wednesday.

Backed by big Western powers, the Kosovo leadership is expected to declare secession from Serbia on Sunday. Belgrade has called an emergency Security Council debate for Thursday in a bid to block the move in advance with the help of its ally Moscow.

Russia last year used its power of veto at the Security Council to prevent Kosovo's independence. As a consequence, the province will split from Serbia in a unilateral move that will quickly be recognized by the West.

In addition, the Serbian parliament is to pass a resolution negating any acts aimed at creating a "false state" out of Albanian- majority Kosovo.

The government session Thursday would end a two-week deadlock within the fragile ruling coalition caused by a feud over Kosovo and Serbia's diplomacy.

Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia wants the country to freeze relations with the European Union in protest at Western support of Kosovo's independence.

Despite Belgrade's diplomatic resistance, the EU is to send a law- enforcing mission to the province once it declares sovereignty. Because of this, Serbia last week refused a deal offered by Brussels bringing it closer to EU membership.

Kostunica has enforced the turnaround from the EU, despite having fewer votes than his coalition partners, the pro-European camp grouped around President Boris Tadic, by refusing to call a cabinet meeting where the deal would have been passed.

The parliament speaker, Oliver Dulic of Tadic's Democratic Party, in return refused to convene the parliament, where Kostunica and the nationalist opposition would have had a majority to pass the Kosovo resolution.

The deadlock was resolved when Tadic agreed to the resolution against Kosovo's declaration of independence despite the dismissal of the EU offer.

That has also paved the way for a parliament session on Friday in which Tadic is to be inaugurated after winning re-election on February 3. The assembly would meet again to debate Kosovo early next week, presumably after Kosovo declares independence.

The crisis of the government coalition, however, continues to simmer and could easily topple it once the question of Serbia's direction in relation to the EU returns to its agenda.

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