Kosovo PM: integration only option for Serbs

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By DESMOND BUTLER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kosovo's prime minister says integration is the only option he will accept for his country's aggrieved Serb population.

Speaking after meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week, Hashim Thaci rejected calls for greater autonomy for Serb communities in Kosovo's north.

He also told The Associated Press on Friday that he would never consider a territorial swap with Serbia as a solution.

"There will be no territorial swap, there will be no autonomy, no special favor," he said. "There will be only integration."

Thaci said he would like to have Kosovo's border open, but he added: "There will be no change of the border."

Kosovo was once a province of Serbia and declared independence in 2008, a move that Belgrade and many Serbs who live in Kosovo's north still vehemently reject.

Kosovo's leaders have been under pressure from the European Union to find ways to reduce tensions in northern Kosovo. Greater autonomy for Serbs as well as a land swap with Serbia have been suggested. But those options could spark a new series of border claims in the war-torn Balkans.

Thaci blamed Serbia for encouraging the idea of peeling off part of Kosovo.

"Serbia has been lying to its people and the Serbs living in the north that there will be a partition, but so far this has been excluded and they live in this dream that Serbia has created," he said.

Thaci said that he has been discussing the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission for Kosovo that would seek to heal the wounds of the regions conflicts.

"I think we need it," he said.

Thaci said that Clinton and Biden had assured him that the United States wanted to see Kosovo's territorial integrity maintained.

The meetings in Washington were a boost to Thaci whose reputation has suffered from a 2009 European investigator's probe that accused him of leading an organ trafficking ring. Thaci has denied the charges.

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