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US: Support for Kosovo Independence Remains Unchanged

Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity regarding the future status of Kosovo, the Bush administration is stressing that it still supports a U.N. plan that would grant provisional independence to the U.N.-administered Serbian province. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

International representatives met in Vienna Wednesday to hammer out a way forward for stalled talks on the future status of the breakaway Serbian province. But the envoys declined to comment after the meeting ended and no immediate statement was issued. New talks could start as early as next month.

The main disagreement surrounds a proposal put forward by the former U.N. envoy on the future status of Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari. The proposal calls for independence for Kosovo, a Serbian province with an ethnic-Albanian majority.

On one side, supporting the Ahtisaari proposal, are the United States and its European allies. Russia and the Serbian government oppose it. Belgrade instead has proposed autonomy for the Serbian province.

The U.N. Security Council last week put off a vote on a draft resolution on Kosovo, in the face of a promised Russian veto. And overnight Tuesday, the Serbian parliament adopted a resolution that calls for an "energetic response" if the United States and other EU countries recognize Kosovo's independence without U.N. consent.

In Washington Wednesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack acknowledged the disagreements, which he said that, for now at least, appear to be intractable.

"It would be optimal if we could get full agreement on it," he said. "I'm not sure we're going to get to that point. I think given where we are in the diplomacy, it's unlikely that we will get full agreement."

The State Department spokesman stressed that it is a Bush administration policy objective to support independence for Kosovo based on the Ahtisaari plan. He also warned that if Kosovo is not granted independence, it could lead to the outbreak of further violence in the region.

"It's not good for the people in the region," he added. "It's not good for Europe. It's not good for us. We have an interest in seeing that region be more stable."

There is growing international concern that Kosovo's leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated by setbacks and delays, and might unilaterally declare independence.

The State Department spokesman added that U.S. negotiators have laid out what he described as "very forward-leaning" proposals with the Russians. He stressed that the United States has not changed its support for anything less than full independence for Kosovo, but is working diplomatically to see who else can be, in his words, brought on board.