Serbia bows to EU, softens stance on Kosovo

BELGRADE Wed Sep 8, 2010 12:04pm EDT

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BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia made a major concession to the European Union on Wednesday by agreeing to soften a draft U.N. resolution on the future of Kosovo and seek dialogue with the breakaway country.

"We have found a formula to open a dialogue on future solutions," President Boris Tadic said in a statement.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO waged an bombing campaign to halt killings of ethnic Albanians in a two-year counter-insurgency war. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, backed by the United States a majority of EU countries.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague rejected a Serbian challenge to the legality of that declaration in July.

Belgrade said on Wednesday it will amend the text of a proposed U.N. General Assembly resolution on Kosovo as agreed with European Union officials.

"With this text, we are closing the proceedings before the International Court of Justice and calling for a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina," a government statement said.

Brussels had heavily criticized Serbia's draft resolution, which originally demanded new negotiations on status of its former province and called Kosovo's independence "unacceptable," and warned it could damage its EU membership prospects.

EU diplomats feared Belgrade, backed by Security Council permanent members Russia and China, might have approached a majority in the world body for its text, since only 70 out of 192 U.N. member states have recognized Kosovo.

Kosovo Albanians who make up 90 percent of the country's population, with a Serb minority mostly in the northern areas bordering Serbia.

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac, Editing by Aleksandar Vasovic and Paul Taylor)

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