BELGRADE (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee will discuss the possibility of granting Kosovo Olympic recognition at its Executive Board meeting this week, an official said, a move that has angered Serbian Olympic officials.
"We can confirm that Kosovo will be addressed at the Executive Board (starting on Wednesday) and discussed on Friday," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told Reuters.
The decision to discuss the region's potential membership has triggered the ire of the Serbian Olympic Committee (OKS), who said it had been informed that Kosovo will be granted full membership.
"The Serbian Olympic Committee has been informed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) an official initiative by the unilaterally recognised Republic of Kosovo for full IOC membership," it said in a statement.
"For four years now, the Serbian Olympic Committee has successfully blocked attempts by the unilaterally declared Republic of Kosovo to gain IOC membership through various channels, while the Serbian authorities have also been timely informed of these attempts.
"We have information that the IOC is now prepared to support the initiative although we have stated several times, in cooperation with the Serbian government institutions, that such activities are unacceptable."
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO went to war to halt the massacre and expulsion of Albanians by Serbian forces waging a two-year counter-insurgency under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Belgrade refuses to recognise it, saying the territory, which has a majority Albanian population, is a heartland of the Serbian nation.
NATO still has some 5,000 peacekeepers on the ground in Kosovo.
Olympic membership through a national Olympic Committee allows athletes to compete in the summer and winter Games while also accessing IOC funds for the development of sport in their region.
Athletes also march with the flags of their nation at the opening and closing ceremonies.
IOC recognition is usually preceded by recognition from the United Nations.
"Such course of action would amount to a precedent which has not occurred in recent history, given that no national Olympic Committee has been admitted into the IOC without the country previously being granted United Nations membership."
There are currently 204 NOCs over five continents that includes nations as well as some territories.
(Writing by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
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