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West circulates UN draft on Kosovo independence

Written by: Staff

United Nations, May 12: European Union nations and the United States have circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution providing for effective independence for Kosovo, despite Russian opposition.

The resolution, distributed by France, endorses a plan drawn up by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari whereby the Serbian province, which has been under UN administration for almost eight years, would be independent under European Union supervision.

Western nations say it is time to end the lengthy stalemate on the breakaway province because talks between Serbs and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority on its status have led nowhere. Belgrade's ally Russia says negotiations should continue and has hinted at a possible veto of the resolution.

Kosovo, seen by Serbs as a cradle of their culture, passed out of Belgrade's control in 1999, when NATO bombing drove out Serb forces who had killed 10,000 Albanian civilians in a two-year war with guerrillas.

Diplomats expected talks between Security Council diplomats to start next week in an attempt to reach an agreed text.

The West, worried that Kosovo's Albanians may take matters into their own hands if the Ahtisaari plan -- which they have supported -- gets bogged down, is trying to face down Russia's hostility and push the proposal through.

The draft refers to ''the specific circumstances that make Kosovo a special case,'' including the years of violence that accompanied the former Yugoslavia's breakup in the 1990s.

''With this draft resolution, the discussion on the future status of Kosovo now enters its final phase,'' French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said in a statement yesterday. ''The Council must meet its responsibilities to ensure the success of the process.

We hope to be able wrap things up within a few weeks.''

European Envoy

Under Ahtisaari's plan, a European envoy mandated by the United Nations and the EU would replace the U.N. mission, with power to veto laws and dismiss local officials. The EU would deploy a police mission alongside the current 16,500-strong NATO peace force.

Kosovo would have the right to enter into international agreements and seek membership of international organizations, which could include the United Nations.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said on Thursday he believed a majority of council members supported the plan and that the issue was whether Russia would abstain or veto.

''At this point, they have not indicated whether they have made up their mind on this,'' he told reporters.

His Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, said Western and Russian ideas for Kosovo were irreconcilable and, asked about a Moscow veto, said the situation ''does require the need to use all options available.'' Russia says guarantees for Kosovo's 100,000 remaining Serbs, who live alongside some 2 million Albanians, are not yet in place.

Asked yesterday whether Russia would put forward its own draft resolution, senior diplomat Konstantin Dolgov said, ''We will see.'' To pass the Security Council, a resolution needs nine votes and no veto by the 15-member body's permanent members -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France or China.

China, like Russia, has called for more negotiations.

Panama, a nonpermanent council member, has suggested adopting Ahtisaari's plan after a six-month delay for further talks, a proposal Western diplomats said could gain traction in the council if it brought Russia round to the resolution.


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