Priština, 19 January 2008 – Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci on Saturday promised the Serb minority community a safe future in the province when it becomes independent.”The status (of Kosovo) is not something that brings fear, on the contrary, it brings perspectives for all,” Thaci said during a visit to the Serb-populated village of Caglavica, on the northeastern outskirts of the capital Pristina.

Thaci, once commander of ethnic Albanian guerrilla separatists fighting Belgrade security troops during the 1998-1999 war, said Kosovo “belongs to all of its citizens.”

“Every citizen will feel safe in Kosovo,” promised Thaci, who became prime minister earlier this month.

Kosovo is technically a Serbian province but has been administered by the United Nations since 1999.

Following failed negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, the majority ethnic Albanian province has pledged a unilateral declaration of independence.

It is supported by the U.S. and most E.U. member states, but Belgrade, backed by Russia, is firmly opposed to any such move.

Russia has already blocked several resolutions in the United Nations Security Council on the issue that were backed by Western countries.

“The date for declaration of independence will be announced very soon,” Thaci said, promising the Serbs better living condition in an independent Kosovo.

Since 1999, tens of thousands of Serbs have fled the province, fearing reprisal attacks by ethnic Albanians who suffered repression and violence during the rule of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s.

The Serbs who have remained – an estimated 100,000 – live mostly in enclaves, or in the north of the province, bordering Serbia. Most of them do not recognize Kosovo authorities, as well as Thaci’s government.

Thaci said he would “not only listen” to the Serbs, “but also solve their problems.”

“I am offering you cooperation in order to build a common future in our country instead of wasting time with the gloomy past,” Thaci vowed.

He also called on his fellow ethnic Albanians to “respect the rights of the minorities.”

Source: AFP