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No Progress Reported in Kosovo Talks


A sixth round of talks on the future status of Kosovo talks took place in Vienna Wednesday but no progress was reported. Belgrade sought to halt the process of privatizing state enterprises in Kosovo, something that was rejected by both Pristina and international mediators.

Serbian negotiator Leon Kojen said that there had been little progress on privatization and ownership, which were the topics of the six-hour talks. He said there is little hope for future agreement.

Stefan Lehne, the Austrian diplomat and European Union official overseeing economic issues in Kosovo, said the Serbs want the privatization halted and restructured. They say the United Nations-led sell off is illegal and has been disposing of valuable assets at exceedingly low prices.

Privatization in Kosovo, which has been marred by graft and disputes over ownership, is part of economic restructuring supervised by the United Nations. So far, only a few hotels and medium-sized companies have been transferred into private hands.

Lehne says setting the terms of privatization is not part of the UN status talks. "It's not part of the mandate of (chief UN status negotiator) Martti Ahtisaari to either fundamentally renegotiate the economic legislation of Kosovo for the last seven years. We also have no mandate to interfere with the mandate of these processes in Kosovo right now," he said.

Six rounds of talks since February have failed to find much common ground between Kosovar Albanians and Serbia.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign in support of an ethnic-Albanian insurgency forced Serbian troops out of the province. Kosovo's 90 percent Albanian population seeks independence while Serbia is offering only limited self-rule to the province it regards as its religious heartland.

The United Nations hopes to resolve Kosovo's status by the end of the year.

Skender Hyseni, headed the Kosovo delegation at Wednesday's Vienna talks. He told VOA Serbia is to blame for the impasse. "Essentially, everybody could see that the only reason Belgrade came to those talks today was to obstruct the privatization process in Kosovo, which was unacceptable both to us and, seemingly, to the international community," he said.

There were no further talks scheduled, but Ahtisaari says he hopes to move to the talks on actual status by July 1.

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