Serbia objects to framework for Kosovo fate

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VIENNA, Nov 5 (Reuters) Serbia said today it had ''fundamental objections'' to a 14-point framework for the future of Kosovo and insisted mediators explicitly rule out a unilateral declaration of independence by the province.

Speaking after a morning meeting with international envoys in Vienna, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said negotiations had to be based on the UN resolution which affirms Serbian sovereignty over its largely ethnic Albanian southern province.

''We'd like these points stated, on paper,'' Jeremic told reporters. ''What's really essential is to explicitly refer to the fact that Resolution 1244 is the framework for our work.'' He also complained there was ''no explicit ruling out of unilateral action''.

Kosovo Albanian leaders, who held direct talks with the Serbs in the afternoon, have threatened to declare independence after a deadline for talks to end expires on Dec. 10.

The meeting is the fourth since August, when envoys from the United States, Russia and the European Union began searching for compromise between Serbia's offer of autonomy and the 90-per cent Albanian majority's demand for independence.

There is no deal in sight, and EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger said they had yet to touch on the crucial question of statehood.

On the table were 14 points of potential agreement, drafted by the three powers, stating Belgrade ''will not govern Kosovo'' nor ''re-establish a physical presence'' in a province wrested from Serb control by NATO bombers in 1999.

The proposals ''do not prejudice the outcome,'' Ischinger said, ''but describe what in our view, if the parties could reach agreement on status, what kind of relationship they could create.'' He said the ''endgame'' was near, but urged patience.

''In this kind of negotiating process it would be a big surprise if, when you have 120 days, the result would be presented after 60 or 90 days,'' he told reporters.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO drove out Serb forces to halt the killing and expulsion of Albanians in a two-year war with guerrillas.

Moscow has blocked UN adoption of a Western-backed plan for independence under EU supervision.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, addressing the envoys, told them to think along the lines of Hong Kong.

''The Hong Kong model, which nobody will deny has proved a success ... is in itself clear proof that our proposal of substantive autonomy is equally realistic, and secures a stable and sustainable solution,'' Kostunica said in his speech.

Albanians reject any form of Serb rule, and NATO's 16,000-strong peace force is braced for possible unrest.

Diplomats say Western capitals are working on a way around resolution 1244, to allow the EU to deploy a 1,800-strong police mission and for individual countries -- led by the United States, Britain and France -- to recognise the new state.

REUTERS PD HT1937

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