EU says needs fallback plan if Kosovo declares independence

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EVORA, Portugal, Sep 28 (Reuters) The European Union needs a fallback plan for Kosovo in case talks on the future of the breakaway Serbian province fail and its Albanian leaders declare independence, EU president Portugal said today.

''International actors, especially those involved in the talks, need a plan for all situations and for all scenarios,'' Portuguese Defence Minister Nuno Severiano Teixeira said.

He had been asked how the EU would react if talks failed between Kosovo's Albanian leaders and Serbia, and the Albanians then declared unilateral independence.

Leaders of Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians held their first direct talks on the future of the province with international mediators in New York today but neither side budged from its position.

The only concrete result of the two-hour meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly appeared to be that the talks would continue, with a new session set for October 14 in Brussels.

Serbia, backed by Russia with its UN veto power, rejects independence for Kosovo. But the territory's 2 million ethnic Albanians -- 90 percent of the population -- will settle for nothing less.

Teixeira said all players involved in the UN negotiations should try to reach a diplomatic solution.

''What is important at this moment is to focus on the negotiating process and on putting diplomatic pressure on both parties to find a solution,'' he told journalists at an informal EU defence ministers' meeting in Portugal.

The United Nations secretary general has set a December 10 deadline for the negotiations, which are led by the European Union, the United States and Russia.

The final status of Kosovo has been in legal limbo under UN administration since 1999, when NATO waged an air war to drive out Serbian forces and halt ethnic cleansing.

The United States and the European Union say the solution should be based on a plan by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who advocated EU-supervised independence, with broad autonomy for the Kosovo Serbs.

Reuters MP VP0325

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