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France Tells Serbia it Must Back Kosovo Independence to Gain EU Entry


France's top diplomat has told Serbia it must support a United Nations' resolution backing independence for breakaway Kosovo province, if it expects to gain entry into the European Union.

In Belgrade Thursday, Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher told reporters it is not possible to join the EU while enmeshed in what he called "ethnic conflicts and religious disputes."

Russia, Serbia's chief ally, has threatened to veto any U.N. Security Council resolution on Kosovo that is not backed by both Belgrade and Pristina.

In a new bid to win Russian backing, Western nations Wednesday circulated a revised draft resolution calling for four months of intensive negotiations between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders and Serb minority envoys.

The previous draft would have authorized an automatic procedure granting independence, if the talks failed. The new draft dropped the call for automatic independence, after strong objections from Moscow.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quotes a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying experts will study the new resolution for several days before deciding whether to back it.

Wednesday, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica rejected any new draft backing Kosovo's independence. He repeated Belgrade's long-held position that Belgrade will never accept independence for Kosovo,

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999, after NATO airstrikes halted a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Some information for this report provided by AP.

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