France says Kosovo talks must not drag on

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MOSCOW, Sep 18 (Reuters) Talks over the status of the Serbian province of Kosovo cannot be allowed to drag on indefinitely, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said today.

Kosovo's two million ethnic Albanians demand independence, while Serbia has offered a broad autonomy.

The European Union, the United States and Russia, known as the Troika, are calling for a compromise, although Russia does not want to impose a deadline for negotiations.

''I hope ... that the two sides (Serbia and Kosovo) and the Troika can arrive at some sort of minimal consensus, but that (process) should not be eternal,'' Kouchner said at a news briefing after meeting his Russian counterpart in Moscow.

''I do not see how a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo can stabilise the situation in Kosovo,'' Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said at the same news briefing.

''We do not think it is possible to set artificial deadlines.'' Serbian officials meet mediators today in London to discuss the differences between the two sides before meeting ethnic Albanian leaders later this month.

REUTERS ARB KP1654

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