Bush: ‘Time for an independent Kosovo’

US PRESIDENT George W Bush, receiving a hero’s welcome as the first American president to visit Albania, said yesterday it was now time for neighbouring Kosovo to be given independence.

Speaking in the capital Tirana alongside Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Bush said: “At some point in time — sooner rather than later — you’ve got to say ‘enough is enough. Kosovo is independent’ and that’s the position we’ve taken.”

Mr Bush’s statement was aimed at Russia and others that object to Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

He said any extension of talks on Kosovo must have “certain independence” as the goal.

The issue of independence for the Serbian province of Kosovo is one of the issues on which the US and Russia disagree.

Russia, an ally of Serbia, contends independence for Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent for the world’s other breakaway regions. Serbia also opposes self-rule for Kosovo, which it sees as the heart of its historic homeland.

Last month, the US and European nations introduced a revised UN resolution supporting independence for Kosovo under international supervision, but it was immediately rejected by Russia — which hinted it would veto the measure.

The new draft addressed Russia’s concern that Kosovo’s multi-ethnic character is preserved, but left out Russia’s main proposal for new negotiations between the province’s majority ethnic Albanians, who demand independence, and its minority Serbs, who want to remain part of Serbia.

“I believe it’s important to push the process along,” Bush said.

Albania, a former communist country, was ruled for four decades from the end of the Second World War by dictator Enver Hoxha. He oversaw the construction of more than 600,000 concrete pillbox bunkers as lookouts and gun emplacements out of paranoia about being invaded.

Mr Hoxha also discouraged people from leaving or admitting foreigners, saying Albania was paradise.

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