Rice tells Serbs to cooperate on Kosovo
Washington, July 28: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Serbia to cooperate in the coming months as Kosovo edges toward independence, the State Department said.
Rice met Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic in Washington yesterday, where they discussed, among other issues, Kosovo's independence and Serbia's ''outstanding obligations regarding war crimes indictees,'' said a State Department official.
''Kosovo was at the top of the agenda,'' said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ''Everyone knows that Kosovo will be independent soon and we are urging their (Serb) cooperation in the coming months,'' he added.
Serbia opposes independence for Kosovo, seen by many Serbs as their spiritual heartland.
Kosovo, where 90 per cent of the 2 million people are ethnic Albanians, has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign forced out Serbian troops who were killing and expelling Albanians in a two-year war with guerrillas.
The official declined to provide further details of the talks or the issue of war crimes suspects.
The United States is pushing Serbia to cooperate with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which is still looking for a handful of top suspects, including Gen. Ratko Mladic who is believed to be within Serbia's reach.
Mladic is wanted over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.
Rice met Kosovo's leaders on Monday and assured them the United States supported moves for independence from Serbia but urged patience in the months ahead.
Last week, the United Nations put aside a resolution on Kosovo's independence when Russia, a close ally of Serbia, said it would use its Security Council veto to block the resolution.
With the UN route closed for the moment because of Russia's opposition, the so-called Contact Group, composed of Russia, the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Germany, is expected to take the lead in conducting talks among all sides over the next three months.