JANUARY 5 2013 14:29h

Serbian president says will not go to Kosovo for Christmas

File photo of Radical Party acting leader Tomislav Nikolic

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Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic has told the media in Belgrade he will not go to Gracanica on 7 January, when the Serb Orthodox faithful are celebrating Christmas, stressing that Pristina will not be telling him whether he can visit Kosovo or not and that he will change his position towards the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and towards Brussels.

"I am not going to Gracanica for Christmas. I will not allow Pristina to decide whether I can go to Kosovo or not. It is obvious that the EULEX is waiting for the authorities in Pristina to allow that," Nikolic said in an interview with the Belgrade-based Kurir paper, which hit the newsstands on Saturday.

Kurir cited Nikolic as saying that he would have to change his position towards the EULEX and Brussels over this.

"They did not allow me to visit Kosovo while I was in the Opposition and they do not allow me to visit Kosovo now that I am president of Serbia," Nikolic said.

The EULEX said on Friday that it was not within its remit to allow or not to allow arrivals of foreign official in Kosovo, explaining that requests for permission for visit to Kosovo by Serbian officials should be lodged with the European Union officials in Belgrade.

Earlier on Friday Nikolic harshly condemned the EULEX for not replying to his request to attend Christmas liturgy at the Gracanica Serb Orthodox monastery in Kosovo on January 7, his office said. Nikolic made the request on December 28.

EULEX mission spokeswoman Irena Gudeljevic told Radio Free Europe that the Office of Serbian President should forward the request to this effect to EU representatives in Belgrade.

The request for the arrival of Serbian officials in Kosovo is to be sent to the EU Special Representative in Belgrade. The Office of the EU Special Representative in Pristina forwards this request to the Kosovo government and the procedure for the response is the same, the spokeswoman said.

Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuqi was quoted by the media in Pristina as saying that Nikolic's request had been refused with an explanation that visits of Serbia's office-holders could be organised on the principle of reciprocity. This means that such visits would be okayed after Kosovo office-holders are allowed to visit Albanians in the Presevo valley in the south of Serbia. Kuqi said the decision to turn down Nikolic's request had been made in consultations with international partners.

(Hina)