Kosovo offers Serbia a friendship treaty

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PRISTINA, Serbia, 17 Sep (Reuters) Kosovo is ready to offer Serbia a treaty guaranteeing cordial relations after the breakaway province becomes independent, Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders said today.

The treaty will be presented on Wednesday in London to the international ''troika'' of envoys from the United States, the European Union and Russia who are mediating talks on Kosovo's future status.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities in a two-year war with ethnic Albanian separatist guerrillas.

Up to 10,000 civilians, overwhelmingly Albanians, were killed and 800,000 were driven out of Kosovo in the 1998-99 fighting.

''This will relax our relations and develop good, friendly ties between two sovereign countries,'' Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu told a press conference.

Kosovo wants independence, but Russia has blocked a UN resolution which would have given sovereignty under European Union supervision. Russia, a veto holder at United Nations Security Council and traditional ally of Serbia, says it will not support any solution that Belgrade does not agree to.

Serbia only wants to give Kosovo autonomy under Serbia rather than full independence.

Thirteen months of failed talks mediated by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari prompted Moscow to ask for more negotiations and the ''troika'' started fresh talks in August this year.

Western countries want discussions to end by December. 10, the date for a new report to the United Nations.

The leaders of Kosovo's two million ethnic Albanians -- 90 percent of the population -- have said they will declare independence after that date even without UN blessing, and seek recognition from the United States and the EU.

But the 27-member EU is split on whether to recognize a new European state without UN Security Council approval.

''This is not intended to be harsh (but) if the international community hesitates to take a decision then we are ready to take decisions,'' Kosovo Prime Minister Ceku said.

There are worries that if a clear roadmap on Kosovo's future is not agreed the province could be beset by unrest.

''We want to talk about issues after independence,'' Ceku said. ''Independence is done.'' REUTERS SKB RK1925

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