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Historic Kosovo Status Talks Open

July 24, 2006 -- Talks between top ethnic-Albanian and Serbian leaders on the final status of Kosovo began this morning, but expectations are low that any agreement will be reached on the future of the independence-minded province.

It is the first time since the UN-led mediation process began in February that the Kosovo Albanian population's demand for full independence has been placed formally on the agenda.

Participants in the one-day talks include Serbia's President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, and Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Agim Ceku.

The presidents and prime ministers of entered the meeting room in a Vienna palace separately and did not shake hands.

An estimated 90 percent of the Serbian province's 2 million people are ethnic-Albanian. The population includes 100,000 Serbs.

Serbia says it will only agree to autonomy.

The United Nations has administered the province since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign drove out Serbian forces.

(RFE/RL 24.vii.06)

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