Belgrade, 14 January 2008 – The Serbian government has adopted a secret plan to implement “in case of a unilateral declaration of independence” by the Albanian majority of the breakaway Kosovo province, it said on Monday.With Western backing, Kosovo’s 90 percent Albanians are preparing to declare independence in coming months despite objections from Serbia, which offers the province autonomy in all matters but rejects any change of borders.

The Serbian government said in a statement it adopted the contingency plan at an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Monday.

“The document that was adopted is an expression of the state’s united policy towards Kosovo,” read the statement.

Details of the plan were kept secret. But information leaked in the three months since the plan was first drafted point to several measures, including cutting off electricity supplies and blocking power routes for the province, which buys 40 percent of its power from Serbia, as well as a trade and goods embargo.

Serbia could also refuse to recognise Kosovo passports and force travellers to make a long detour to get to Western Europe. It might also withdraw its ambassadors from countries that recognise Kosovo as an independent state.

A government source told Reuters that the plan contained a series of measures for each ministry, including preparations for a possible influx of refugees from the ethnic Serb minority.

“This is mostly posturing, a show of determination, it doesn’t mean that any of these measures will be implemented,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Kosovo has been in political and economic limbo since 1999, when NATO drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities while battling a two-year guerrilla insurgency.

The West is sympathetic to the Albanians’ independence demands, and the United States and most European Union members have indicated they will recognise the territory.

Kosovo’s march to independence has left Serbia’s political elite divided on how to respond.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has made it clear he favours a tough response and has spoken of ‘cooling ties’ with countries that recognise Kosovo and raised the prospect of Serbia abandoning its drive towards EU membership.

Pro-Western President Boris Tadic, Kostunica’s partner in the fragile coalition government, is more conciliatory. He also rejects independence for the province but says Belgrade must move to the EU regardless, not return to the isolation of the war-torn 1990s.

Source: Reuters