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President insists Kosovo will gain independence

Kosovo's president insisted yesterday that the province would gain independence in early 2008.

In an end of the year address, Fatmir Sejdiu said Kosovo's "dream and determination (for independence) would come true" in 2008.

"The year 2008 will be marked in history as the great year of independence," Sejdiu said in a statement.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders and Serbia's officials met for over a year in a fruitless effort mediated by international officials to decide whether Kosovo becomes independent or remains part of Serbia. With the failure of the talks, the issue has gone to the UN Security Council.

Russia backs Serbia's claim over the province, while Western capitals support Kosovo's independence supervised by an international presence.

Some European Union nations have been reluctant about Kosovo's declaring independence itself without UN endorsement, fearing such a move would encourage other separatist movements in Europe.

Kosovo's leaders have said they will press on with declaring independence early in 2008, but said they would not move without support from the US and EU.

They have hinted, however, that they will not wait for approval from the United Nations, where Russia has threatened to use its veto power to block any decision that leads to independence.

Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999, after NATO bombing stopped Serbia's brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians, leaving some 10,000 dead and forcing close to a million people into neighboring Macedonia and Albania.