Serb President Prepares for U.N. Kosovo Struggle

Serbia's pro-western President Boris Tadic casts his ballot at a polling station in downtown Belgrade, Sunday, May 11, 2008. Serbs voted Sunday in elections that will decide whether the nation takes another step toward mainstream Europe or reverts to a hardline stance reminiscent of the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic. (AP Photo/Srdjan Ilic)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Serbia's president acknowledged Friday that he will face a tough struggle when he seeks U.N. support for his country's bid to challenge Kosovo's independence before the International Court of Justice.

Boris Tadic said in a statement ahead of next week's U.N. General Assembly session that "very exhausting days lie ahead, constant bilateral meetings and struggle for our national and state interests, and the interests of our citizens."

Tadic will lead a Serbian delegation that will try to win U.N. support for the nation's resolution requesting an opinion from the Netherlands-based world court about whether Kosovo's secession from Serbia was legal.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in February, winning recognition from the United States and most European Union nations. But Serbia, backed by Russia, has refused to endorse the split, arguing that it was illegal under international law.

Kosovo was a province in Serbia but Belgrade lost authority over the territory following a war in 1999 that saw NATO intervene to stop a Serbian onslaught against Kosovo separatists.

Fatmir Sejdiu, Kosovo's president, will also be attending the U.N. General Assembly session in a bid to win more international recognition of the territory's independence.

Before leaving for New York on Thursday, Sejdiu tried to play down Serbia's campaign to question the legality of Kosovo's independence. In an interview, he predicted that Tadic's initiative will have "no legal effect."

Even if the International Court of Justice were to give its opinion about Kosovo and side with Serbia, it would be nonbinding. Still, Serbia hopes that such a move would discourage other countries from formally recognizing the breakaway region.

In Friday's statement, Tadic said his U.N. initiative is crucial for Serbia's efforts to maintain its claim on Kosovo.

If successful, it would result in "new possibilities and fresh capacities" in defending the country's claims for the province and perhaps lead to reopening of international talks on Kosovo's status, he said.

"So far, we have had support from some countries ... but obviously we need wider support," Tadic said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.