Serbian government "annuls" coming Kosovo independence

( dpa ) - The Serbian government Thursday "annulled" the declaration of independence that the Kosovo leadership is expected to announce on Sunday and has called an emergency parliament meeting to pass a resolution backing its decision.

Legislators would meet to pass the resolution after Kosovo makes its move. Backed by big Western powers, Kosovo leaders, representing the 90-per-cent Albanian majority in the province, are expected to remain unperturbed and declare secession on Sunday.

Also on Thursday, the UN Security Council is to hold a closed-door debate on the anticipated move by Kosovo. The meeting was called by Serbia.

Russia, with the power of veto in the Security Council, is backing Serbia's claim of sovereignty over Kosovo. It has already blocked a plan to promote the province into a new country by a UN decision last year.

As a consequence, the province will split from Serbia in a unilateral move that will quickly be recognized by the West. The European Union decision to send a law-enforcement mission with the aim of helping Kosovo along its first sovereign steps has infuriated Serbia.

In protest, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia has last week refused a political and economic cooperation agreement offered by EU.

The strife between Kostunica and the pro-European part of his government coalition, grouped around President Boris Tadic, produced a week-long deadlock in which neither the cabinet nor parliament met.

The impasse was overcome when Tadic, who heads the Democratic Party, agreed to the decision and draft resolution annulling any pro- independence acts by Kosovo's authorities.

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 presumably meet again early next week, after Kosovo declares independence.

But the simmering government crisis would likely erupt when relations with the EU also return to the agenda. While Tadic insists that Serbia must remain on course to membership of EU, Kostunica would certainly remain hostile to Brussels.

"There would be no greater humiliation than to sign and give even indirect consent to the puppet creation on its soil," he said, referring to Kosovo and the cooperation deal offered by Brussels which would, in his words, have legitimized the upcoming EU mission to Kosovo.

In an interview with Thursday's edition of the Glas Javnosti daily, Kostunica also dismissed accusations that he was blocking Serbia's integration with Europe over Kosovo, hinting that he would keep the freezing view of EU.

" Serbia is neither in Asia, nor in Latin America, but in the heart of Europe, Serbia belongs to Europe and nothing can change that," he said.

However, Tadic's Democratic Party and the smallest side in the three-way coalition, the reformist G17 Plus party, said Serbia must progress toward EU membership regardless of Kosovo.

In case Kostunica continues blocking agreements leading the country closer to EU integration, officials of the pro-European camp said that early elections would remain as the only option.

The coalition would be tested at the latest when EU renews its offer for closer political and economic cooperation.

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