Serbia threatens sanctions against Kosovo

( dpa )- Serbia bluntly told the UN Security Council Thursday that it will undertake diplomatic, political and economic measures against Kosovo if the province were to declare independence.

"The Republic of Serbia shall not tolerate such an illegal act of secession," Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said in an address to a closed-door session of the 15-nation council convened at his request to hear Belgrade's position on Kosovo expected declaration of independence on Sunday.

"If forced to react beyond our control, our government and National Assembly will declare the actions of the authorities in Pristina null and void," he said. "And we shall undertake all diplomatic, political and economic measures designed to impede and reverse this direct and unprovoked attack on our sovereignty."

Jeremic said Belgrade has decided not to resort to the use of force against its breakaway province.

He warned also that if the international community lets down Serbia, it stands "ready and willing to sacrifice geo-strategic priorities on the altar of the communal aspirations of Kosovo Albanians."

"And it means that we would consciously avert our gaze from the main goal: a European future for all the Western Balkans," he said.

Jeremic said Serbia has been working hard since the fall of former dictator Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 to try to provide a prosperous future for its people under the roof of a "united Europe" and reconcile with Balkan neighbours.

But the loss of sovereignty over its territorial integrity, triggered by Kosovo's expected declaration of independence, would compel Serbia to take another course.

"Let me be very clear," he said. "The republic of Serbia shall never accept any violation of its territorial integrity. We shall never recognize Kosovo's independence. We shall never waiver, we shall not yield, should this cowardly act proceed unchecked."

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council that Kosovo, by declaring independence, would undermine the foundations of international relations and the UN Charter.

Churkin said the UN mission in Kosovo, the NATO-led security force there and the UN-supported civilian police are responsible for any eruption of violence that would threaten Serb municipalities in the territory.

Churkin warned against "wanton acts" to change the mandates of the current international presences in Kosovo for the purpose of supporting a unilateral declaration of independence. He was refering to the European Union move to dispatch several thousand personnel to assist the government in Pristina should it declare independence on Sunday.

Russia wanted the EU to seek authorization from the council first, but the EU said it already has approval based on UN resolutions dealing with the situation in Kosovo since 1999.

The closed-door session was called to hear Jeremic explain the position of his country opposing Kosvo's expected move. Council members were allowed to speak, but diplomats said it was not immediately clear whether the council would issue a statement to conclude the debate.

Kosovo had not requested to attend the meeting.

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