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Bush Seeks Kosovo's 'Certain Independence'

  • VOA News

President Bush wraps up his eight-day European trip Monday in Bulgaria, one of the United States' most loyal allies in the Balkans.

Mr. Bush and Bulgaria's leaders -- President Georgi Parvanov and Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev -- will hold talks on the political future of Kosovo, which currently is before the United Nations Security Council. The United States says Kosovo should be fully independent of Serbian rule.

The president's agenda in Sofia also includes talks about the campaign to free five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who face the death sentence in Libya, where they were accused of infecting children with AIDS.

The United States and many other countries dispute the Libyan charges against the health workers, and are demanding their immediate freedom.

The president arrived in Bulgaria late Sunday after a triumphant visit to Tirana, the Albanian capital where thousands of people pressed forward during welcoming ceremonies, trying to greet him and shake his hand.

Mr. Bush spoke out strongly on the Kosovo issue while in Albania. He says the time has come to decide Kosovo's fate, and that any more talks on the future of the Serbian province must have "certain independence" as their goal.

Ninety percent of Kosovo's people are ethnic Albanians, and almost all of them want to be fully autonomous and cut any ties to Serbia. The Belgrade government and Russia -- Serbia's long-time ally -- fiercely oppose independence.

The Security Council is currently considering a US-backed plan for supervised independence for Kosovo.

The president urged Albanian leaders to work with Kosovo's ethnic Albanians to maintain peace and calm until the Council makes its decision on Kosovo's future.
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