Koštunica: Unilateral independence: political crime.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said on Wednesday that Kosovo would never get its independence and that a unilateral proclamation of independence would represent a "political crime", news reaching here from Belgrade reported.

"We will make it clear at the negotiations in New York that Kosovo should not be independent, and its unilateral declaration would represent a political crime," Vojislav Kostunica said as he headed for direct talks with Kosovo's ethnic Albanians in New York.

Serbian and Kosovo ethnic Albanian leaders are scheduled to have their first ever direct talks over the final status of Serbia's southern breakaway province of Kosovo on Friday on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York.

Serbia has insisted that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia and therefore should remain within its border, while Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians account for 90 percent of its 2 million population, has repeatedly asked for complete independence.

Kosovo threatened to unilaterally declare independence if the extended 120-day talks come to nothing by Dec. 10 when the so-called Kosovo troika, composed of envoys for the EU, the United States and Russia, should report the result of the talks to the UN.

Serbia and its ally Russia who wields a veto power in the UN Security Council have expressed their opposition to setting time-table for the talks and Kosovo's unilateral independence, while the United States and some major EU countries have said they support Kosovo's aspirations.

"All the member states of the UN, the United States as well, have an explicit international obligation to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia," Kostunica said, adding that any unilateral independence of Kosovo is "illegal and invalid."

[Source: Xinhua News Agency, Tirana, 26Sep07]

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