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Kosovo PM: Ethnic Serbs Welcome In Independent Kosovo
January 16, 2008

ATHENS (AFP)--Ethnic Serbs would be a welcome part of Kosovo when its expected independence from Serbia is declared, Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has told Greek television. 

"I will work very closely with the Serbs to persuade them to remain in their homes, their properties...Kosovo is their country too," Thaci told the private Skai channel in an interview aired late Tuesday. 

"Independent Kosovo is not only a country for Albanians, but also for Serbs, Montenegrins, Bosnians, Turks, and all who live here," he said, ahead of a United Nations Security Council meeting on Kosovo Wednesday which he is to attend. 

Ethnic Serbs make up fewer than 10% of Kosovo's population, and like the Serbian government they oppose independence for the province which has been under U.N. administration since a North Atlantic Treaty Organization air war against Serbia in 1999. 

Thaci said when he was a leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army in the late 1990s, it was to oppose "Serbia's military presence in Kosovo" and not against the province's around 100,000 ethnic Serbs. 

"We are very proud of them," he said. "We want to work with them and build a new relationship, a new Kosovo." 

Thaci said he would "very soon" begin lobbying for international recognition of Kosovo's independence, and work closely with the U.S., the European Union and the Security C
Both Thaci and Serbian President Boris Tadic are to attend Wednesday's Security Council meeting in New York which is to discuss the U.N. mission in Kosovo. 

Officials have cautioned that the meeting isn't intended to reopen stalled direct talks between the two leaders on Kosovo's future status.

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