"S. Ossetia won't recognize Kosovo"

TSKHINVALI, SUKHUMI -- South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity says it is not fair to compare this breakaway region with Kosovo.

South Ossetians have far more right to a state of their own than Kosovo Albanians, he told Belgrade daily Večernje Novosti in an interview.

"Kosovo Albanians got independence after NATO's aggression on Serbia. Americans and NATO member countries took away Serbia's province. I feel sincerely for the Serb people," Kokoity was quoted.

He also said that South Ossetia has no intention of recognizing Kosovo.

"Serbs had a well-organized state that provided for a normal life for Albanians. For this reason, what Americans have done to the Serbs is injustice," he continued.

As for South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence, he expressed hope that many other countries will in the near future follow Russia's example to recognize the two new states in the Caucasus.

"Our goal is to unite with North Ossetia, which is a part of the Russian Federation. All Ossetians should live in one state. We find the position of the West unclear. Why are they now protecting the Tbilisi leadership," the South Ossetian leader wondered.

According to Kokoity, both in the cases of South Ossetia and Kosovo, the United States and its allies sided with those who planned to take other countries' territory by force.

Independence accelerated

The decision on Kosovo has also accelerated the process of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia independence and strengthened awareness that their aspirations would be realized, Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh told a press conference in the capital of Sukhumi.

Bagapsh said that the recognition process, as in the case of other conflicts, is not universal and cannot be measured by the same criteria.

"At the start of the Kosovo process, we said that, whatever the outcome, whether it is recognized or not, we would not give up our path towards independence," the president of Abkhazia said.

"However, the main issue is why some are allowed to do everything, and others can do nothing. Ultimately, Kosovo is the heart of Serbia and they have cut it out. This was possible to do without a decision by the UN Security Council and the permanent members, because an influential boss appeared and he was the one to mke the decision," Bagapsh underscored.

"Until someone else appears – and he has already appeared – who will also not count on recommendations by the UN, and until the United States, Russia and until other countries reach a consensus, this will continue," he said.

Bagapsh added that while 55,000 Georgians have returned to the two regions, the Serbs have not returned to Kosovo, "only a miserly number".