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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kosovo Will Not 'Give Up an Inch'

BADEN, Austria -- Serbia will not give up "an inch" of Kosovo, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Monday, as talks on the breakaway province's future entered a critical phase before a United Nations deadline next month.

"Serbia will not let an inch of its territory be taken away," a defiant Kostunica told reporters at a final round of negotiations before international mediators report back to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders, meanwhile, said they were committed to gaining independence -- making a breakthrough unlikely in the last session of talks, which run through Wednesday in the picturesque Austrian spa town of Baden.

The lingering and increasingly bitter deadlock between the rival sides raised the likelihood that Kosovo would follow through on vows to declare independence unilaterally at some point after Dec. 10 if the UN Security Council does not sign off on statehood.

Kosovo's leaders demand full independence from Serbia, which has offered the province broad autonomy but insists it remain part of Serbia.

Hashim Thaci, a former ethnic Albanian rebel who is Kosovo's incoming prime minister, said independence from Serbia was "our past and present and future" and was the only solution.

But Thaci insisted that any decision would be made in close cooperation with the United States and the European Union.