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Kosovo, Serbia to resume talks Friday


Kosovo and Serbia will resume talks in Brussels on Friday following another failure to clinch a deal to normalise ties and ease tension in the Balkans, officials here said.

The Kosovo delegation, which was on its way home after the failed 11th-hour talks on Wednesday, returned to Brussels for the new meeting, the Pristina government said Thursday.

The negotiators "returned back from the airport in Ljubljana to Brussels to continue meetings" with the Serbian delegation after a request from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the government said in a statement.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's advisor Bekim Colaku confirmed to local media that the talks would resume on Friday.

In Brussels, an official at the Serbian mission to the EU confirmed that Belgrade would take part in the talks and that Prime Minister Dacic would attend.

An EU source in Brussels told AFP that only two issues are outstanding -- over police in the north of Kosovo where Serbs make up the majority and the question of Kosovo's representation in international organisations such as the United Nations.

Pristina suddenly raised the second issue on Wednesday, although it was not part of prior negotiations.

Late on Wednesday each side blamed the other for rejection of a Brussels-brokered proposal on how to defuse their longstanding tensions.

An agreement is needed in the coming days if Belgrade is to win endorsement from a June EU summit to open much hoped-for negotiations to become a member of the bloc.

Failing progress before next week, Serbia's integration into the EU could be delayed indefinitely.

Pristina, which unilaterally declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, is eyeing an association pact with the EU as a reward for normalising ties if a deal is reached.

Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo's independence, even though more than 90 countries have done so, including the United States and all but five EU member states.