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US Hopeful of Security Council Action on Kosovo

The U.S. State Department's top diplomat for Europe says he believes the U.N. Security Council will be able to approve a final-status plan for Kosovo, despite the failure of U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari to conclude a deal with the Balkan parties. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Dan Fried spoke to reporters Monday after talks in Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Though U.N. envoy Ahtisaari's final negotiating mission in Vienna ended in stalemate, U.S. officials say the main parties, Serbia, and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, actually agree on 80 percent of his peace plan.

They say they believe the U.N. Security Council, which will now take up the issue of Kosovo's status, will be able to agree on a settlement plan without a veto by Moscow, Serbia's main political backer.

The Ahtisaari plan would grant Kosovo, a Serbian province which has been a U.N. protectorate for nearly a decade, what amounts to supervised statehood with trappings of independence including its own flag, anthem and constitution, while protecting the rights of its Serb minority.

The plan falls short of Kosovar Albanians' demands for full, outright independence. Serbian leaders adamantly oppose partitioning their country, with Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica warning that Security Council approval of the plan would be, as he put it, the most dangerous precedent in the history of the U.N.

But in a talk with reporters, Assistant Secretary Fried said he believes a deal is possible in the Security Council on a revised plan dealing with the parties concerns.

He said the notion advanced by the Serbian Prime Minister, and at times by Moscow, that the Ahtisaari plan would touch off a wave of separatism in Europe or elsewhere is simply not valid:

"The precedent simply doesn't apply. We have said before, and will say again as many times as we have to, that Kosovo is not a precedent for any other area, whether that's Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya, Trans-Dniestria, Corsica or Texas. Okay? It just isn't and it won't be," said Fried. "We don't have to accept that rather dramatic language at face value."

Assistant Secretary Fried, just back from talks in Belgrade, the Kosovo capital Pristina and the Macedonian capital Skopje, said he thinks a moderate majority across the region supports the outlines of Ahtisaari plan, which he said would be far preferable to the tense status quo:

"There will be extremists who stage provocations, and we all know this," he added. "But extremists staging provocations in context where the international community is supporting a solution which provides for the rights of all the Kosovar citizens in general, and particularly for the rights of Serb community - that will be a far better situation than a situation where there is no process and no hope, and no status resolution. In that case there will be far more trouble, far more bloodshed, I fear."

Fried put no time frame on U.N. deliberations but said given Moscow's record of cooperation on the issue, including its role in the international contact group on Kosovo, there is no reason to assume a Russian veto.

He also said leaders of all the Kosovo communities agree that the 16,000-member NATO force in Kosovo, K-For, should remain there for some period of time and that is NATO's intention, as well.

International forces have been in Kosovo since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign ended a bloody Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.