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US Willing to Give More Time for Kosovo Consensus


The State Department says the Bush administration is prepared to devote several months more to efforts to build an international consensus on an independence plan for Kosovo. Russia has said it will block any Kosovo plan in the U.N. Security Council that does not have the support of its political ally Serbia. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Officials here say the administration is not backing away from its stated objective of seeing an independent Kosovo along the lines of the plan by U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari.

But acknowledging the political reality of continued Russian opposition in the Security Council, the State Department says it is ready to devote additional weeks and months to trying to build a consensus on the issue that includes Moscow.

President Bush, on a European trip a month ago that included a visit to Albania, said he wanted to see early independence for Kosovo, a majority ethnic-Albanian Serbian province administered by the United Nations.

Moscow has held out against a settlement based on the Ahtisaari plan, which provides for supervised independence for the area, and has become more pointed in its implicit threats to veto any resolution unacceptable to Belgrade.

In weekend remarks in Croatia, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried cast doubt on prospects for early U.N. action and said an agreement enabling Kosovo to claim independence might not come until next year.

In a talk with reporters here, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack provided no specific time-table, but said the administration is prepared to give the consensus-building process additional weeks and months:

"We want to try to bring on board as many parties as possible, including the Russians, in this process," he said. "But there should not be any mistaking what we see as the end result. If there is some more time that might be needed in terms of weeks or months to discuss this, and to see if we can arrive at some solution that gets the maximum buy-in, then that is probably worth the time and effort. And that is the process we are engaged in now."

While U.S. officials had recently spoken of action in the Security Council on Kosovo in a matter of weeks, Assistant Secretary Fried told a NATO meeting Sunday in Dubrovnik that he hoped Kosovo's future status could be resolved in the months leading up to the NATO summit in Bucharest next April.

Kosovo, which is 90 percent ethnic-Albanian, has been run by the United Nations since a NATO-led air war halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.

The Belgrade government has said it is prepared to give the region autonomy though not independence. But U.S. and European Union diplomats say that given the Kosovo's violent history, there can be no return to Serb rule.

Kosovo Albanians have expressed impatience with the process, though leaders in Pristina have indicated in recent days they would not make an independence move without U.S. and EU backing.

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