Kosovo tells UN's Ban Get ready for independence

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PRISTINA, Serbia, Nov 2 (Reuters) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should expect Kosovo to declare independence after talks with Serbia end on December 10, the prime minister of the breakaway province said today.

Speaking ahead of a fourth round of negotiations on Monday in Vienna, Prime Minister Agim Ceku said he had asked UN governor Joachim Ruecker, Ban's special representative in Kosovo, to convey the message to New York.

''He (Ban) should know that the citizens of Kosovo, and Kosovo's leaders, cannot wait much longer after December 10,'' Ceku told a joint news conference with Ruecker. ''He should expect us to declare independence after this date.'' Leaders of Serbia and Kosovo's 90-per cent ethnic Albanian majority will hold direct talks in the Austrian capital on Monday, with barely a month to go before international mediators report back to the United Nations.

Talks began in August, but there is no deal in sight.

Kosovo has said it will declare independence with or without a deal, and seek recognition from the West. But it has shied away from setting a date until it gets the green light from the United States and its major allies in the European Union.

A November 17 Parliamentary election in Kosovo has hardened rhetoric, but Ceku is not running and could be out of office by the time a decision on independence is taken.

Ruecker said he took note ''there should be no further delays.'' The German diplomat is Kosovo's sixth UN administrator since 1999, when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces to halt the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanians in a two-year war with separatist guerrillas.

A declaration of independence without a new UN resolution would leave Kosovo under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which affirms the sovereignty of the then Yugoslavia, to which Serbia is the successor state.

But diplomats say Western capitals are working on a way around the document, to allow the EU to deploy a 1,800-strong police mission and for individual countries -- led by the United States, Britain and France -- to recognise the new state.

The latest bid for compromise began in August under the mediation of envoys from the United States, Russia and the European Union, after Moscow blocked UN adoption of a plan to grant Kosovo independence under EU supervision.

NATO allies with 16,000 troops in the relatively poor province fear Albanian frustration could turn to unrest, possibly spreading to Macedonia where there are growing signs of tension between the authorities and the large Albanian minority.

REUTERS AM KP2300

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