Pristina Rejects Serbian PM Request to Visit Kosovo

Kosovo has rejected a request by Serbia's prime minister to visit a Serb-majority town in the breakaway territory, saying it would "interfere" with local polls next month, its deputy prime minister said Wednesday.

"We do not want officials from Belgrade to interfere with Kosovo's elections," Hajredin Kuci told Agence France Presse by phone.

Because Kosovo and Serbia have not had diplomatic relations since the majority-Albanian government in Pristina declared independence in 2008, Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic had to request approval for the visit through the EU diplomatic missions in both capitals.

Dacic wanted to visit the southern town of Strpce the day after local election campaigning begins on Friday.

In April, Dacic and his Kosovan counterpart Hashim Thaci reached an agreement at the end of a series of EU-mediated talks on normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

In Belgrade, Dacic said he "has warned Brussels" of Pristina's decision which he described as "scandalous" and "a blow" to the normalization of ties between Serbia and Kosovo.

"If I cannot go to Kosovo and call on the Serbs to vote, then I wonder if it makes sense for us to continue the dialogue" with Pristina, Dacic said.

Local elections that will help set up an association of Serb municipalities with broad powers were called for November 3 as a part of the April agreement.

Belgrade has encouraged minority Serbs in Kosovo to take part in the elections, which could empower them in areas where they represent a majority of the population.

Serbia still refuses to recognize Kosovo's independence.

Source: Agence France Presse

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