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Serbia rejects brokered Kosovo deal, begs for time

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia rejected on Monday a European Union-brokered deal for reconciliation with its former province of Kosovo — a defiant move that could jeopardize the Balkan country's EU membership aspirations and fuel tensions in the region.

The EU had given Serbia until on Tuesday to say whether it would relinquish its effective control over northern Kosovo in exchange for the start of membership negotiations.

Even before the rejection, a top leader had said the plan is unacceptable because it does not give more autonomy to minority ethnic Serbs in Kosovo who, together with Serbia, reject Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence.

“The Serbian government cannot accept the proposed principles ... because they do not guarantee full security, survival and protection of human rights for the Serbs in Kosovo,” Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said. “Such an agreement could not be implemented and would not lead to a lasting and sustainable solution.”

Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, said after the eighth round of talks between Serbian and Kosovo officials last week in Brussels that she wanted a response from both sides and that the bloc's mediation was over.

Despite warnings that there will be no more EU-sponsored mediation, Vucic and the government called for more talks with the rival ethnic Albanian leaders of Kosovo.

“If there is a negative answer from (the EU), that would be bad news for Serbia, Kosovo and the EU,” Vucic said.

In a statement issued after Serbia's rejection, Ashton called on Belgrade “to make a last effort to reach an agreement.”

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