Kosovo's rival parties strike deal to form coalition government

Kosovo's rival parties on Monday struck a power-sharing deal to form a government that is expected to declare independence from Serbia this year. Former rebel leader Hashim Thaci said his Democratic Party of Kosovo will govern with its key opponent, Fatmir Sejdiu's Democratic League of Kosovo. The two party leaders signed the deal, which is to be voted on Wednesday by the province's 120-seat assembly. "The No. 1 commitment of this government and of all Kosovo citizens is to formalize Kosovo as an independent, democratic state," Thaci, who is the prime minister-designate, told reporters. The coalition's first challenge will be to steer the province through a declaration of independence from Serbia, which is backed by Western governments but fiercely opposed by Serbia and Russia.