No hope of deal in dying hours of Kosovo talks

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BADEN, Austria, Nov 28 (Reuters) Serbs and Kosovo Albanians meet for a final hour of talks today, along with the trio of mediators that has struggled in vain to break the deadlock over the future of the breakaway province.

''We're just wrapping this up,'' said a diplomatic source at the spa hotel outside Vienna where negotiations have been going on since Monday without any sign of a breakthrough.

The mediators, from the European Union, the United States and Russia, were due to hold a news conference later in the Austrian capital and will make final visits to Serbia and Kosovo next Monday.

The destiny of Kosovo should become clearer after they make their report to the United Nations, due by December 10.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica says the independence demanded by Kosovo's 90 percent Albanian majority cannot be legally obtained by a unilateral declaration backed by the West.

''For Serbia only a solution within the Security Council is acceptable,'' Kostunica said yesterday. ''These negotiations have lasted for two years. The way they started is the way they must end -- in the Security Council.'' Kosovo Albanian President Fatmir Sejdiu said: ''The Kosovo parliament will have the final word on status,'' and a declaration would be made ''in coordination'' with the West.

The declaration would come ''in a time not far away from now'', he said.

The United States and European Union say the mediation ends with the report to the United Nations. 10. But Serbia's ally Russia has already blocked independence in the Security Council and says it will ''insist'' on further negotiation.

Serbia says blocking independence will preserve peace in the fragile Balkans. But Kosovo's prime minister-in-waiting Hashim Thaci, a former guerrilla who battled Serb forces in the 1998-99 war, denied any threat of conflict.

''There will be no more war, no more killing, no more crisis in the region. That's our commitment,'' Thaci said. ''There will also be no more delay.'' After eight years under U.N. control and NATO protection, and with no compromise in sight, the West sees independence under EU supervision as the only viable solution to the dispute.

Kostunica refused to detail an ''Action Plan'' his government is drawing up in anticipation of a unilateral declaration, but Serbia warns of violent unrest, and has raised the possibility that Serbs whose mini-republic makes up half of Bosnia could demand, in their turn, to secede from that state.

Serbian President Boris Tadic appealed to Kosovo Albanians to accept an offer of nearly all the rights and symbols of an independent state, short of the republic they are demanding.

''Serbia's offer is a recipe for frozen conflict,'' said Kosovo spokesman Skender Hyseni, forecasting ''nothing spectacular'' in the dying hours of the talks.

REUTERS PD ND1444

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