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Tadic vows to preserve Kosovo

Latest update : 2008-02-15

Boris Tadic vowed to maintain Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo as he was sworn in as Serbian president on Friday. For his part, Kosovo's PM Hashim Thaci refused to confirm Kosovo's independence date.

BELGRADE, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Boris Tadic was sworn in as
president of Serbia on Friday, two days before Kosovo declares
independence in Serbia's most traumatic moment since it was
bombed by NATO in 1999 to end ethnic-cleansing in the province.

"I will never give up fighting for our Kosovo and I will,
with all my might, fight for Serbia to join the European Union,"
Tadic said after taking the oath of office.

On Sunday, however, Serbia faces dismemberment with the loss
of Kosovo, the mountain-ringed province steeped in Serb myth but
now home to 2 million Albanians, a 90 percent majority.

Nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who has
eclipsed pro-Western Tadic to become undisputed champion of
Serbia's unity, has told Serbs that Kosovo's breakaway is "about
to become a reality" that he can't stop but will never accept.

Tadic and Kostunica cannot agree on Serbia continuing to
pursue EU membership if EU states approve Kosovo's secession.

Most EU members plus the United States plan to recognise
Kosovo, saying Serbia relinquished the moral right to rule its
people because of the brutality it used against them in 1998-99
under the late Slobodan Milosevic, and because there is no hope
of compromise.

Serbia and its ally Russia insist that the legal rights of
sovereignty and territorial integrity are paramount over an
ethnic minority's demands for self-determination.

Serbia has offered autonomy to Kosovo Albanians within Serb
borders, but no role as full citizens. Belgrade's proposal is
for separate lives, a formula the West believes is unsustainable
in the long term.

Kosovo has already been under United Nations administration
and NATO protection for nearly 9 years. Its leader Hashim Thaci
said he can count on recognition by 100 countries.



Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told the United Nations
on Thursday Serbia would not use military force, but "all
diplomatic, political, and economic measures ... to impede and
reverse this direct and unprovoked attack on our sovereignty".

Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin argued, "Milosevic
has been gone for 10 years." But Western critics say Serbia has
not done enough to repair the wreckage his policies inflicted on
ethnic harmony in the former Yugoslav federation.

Hardline nationalism is still a powerful force in Serbia. No
mainstream politician has taken the risk of conceding that
Kosovo may have been effectively lost 9 years ago when thousands
of Albanian civilians were killed by Serb forces.

Nationalists have called for protests in Belgrade next week
against the United States and European Union. Tens of thousands
are expected to participate. Ambassadors were preparing to
withdraw from EU embassies for consultations at home.

Russia warns that the West is letting a dangerous genie out
of the bottle by supporting Kosovo's secession without U.N.
approval. It says separatist movements the world over will take
note that they too may be able to seize independence.

Russia said on Friday international recognition of Kosovo
would influence its policy towards Georgia's breakaway regions
of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but did not say if it would
recognise them.

Western powers argue Kosovo is not a precedent but a unique
case, brought about by the savagery of an autocracy towards an
ethnic minority.

Ethnic Albanians in the borderlands of Macedonia, Montenegro
and south Serbia say they look forward to Kosovo's independence
and discount concern that they too will attempt to secede to
create a "Greater Albania" in the Balkans.

But there are fears that the shockwaves of Yugoslavia's
long, slow and bloody collapse have not subsided yet. In Bosnia,
Serbs who won an autonomous half of the country in the Dayton
peace deal that ended the 1992-95 war say they too will demand
to secede if Kosovo gets its way.

Date created : 2008-02-15