U.S. general: Kosovo near on independence

May 25, 2006 at 11:59 AM

PRISTINA, Serbia, May 25 (UPI) -- Former NATO commander Wesley Clark says Serbia's Kosovo province could be independent in the coming months.

After talks with President Fatmir Sejdiu, Clark, a retired U.S. Army general, said Thursday that Kosovo's status may be solved soon, the Belgrade Beta news agency reported.

"I am convinced that the question of the (Kosovo) status may be solved shortly, Kosovo may be independent in the next several months, and it will respect the rights of all its citizens," Clark said.

Serbs, who want Kosovo to remain part of Serbia, and ethnic-Albanians, who advocate independence from the Serbian government in Belgrade, have been meeting in Austria to decide who will govern the province, once U.N. and NATO personnel leave.

Kosovo's population of 1.8 million is 90 percent ethnic-Albanian.

In 1999, NATO air attacks stopped Serbian forces' reported terror against ethnic-Albanian separatists and ever since has maintained protection of ethnically motivated crimes. Clark was the NATO commander during the 3-month air raids on Serbia-Montenegro.

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