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Kosovo Negotiators Meet, But Little Progress Expected

Envoys from the United States, the European Union and Russia, who are meeting in London Thursday to talk about the status of Kosovo, say they are expecting no substantial shifts in positions. VOA's Barry Wood reports from the Kosovar capital Pristina that there is little hope of a break in the stalemate between Serbs refusing to relinquish sovereignty and Kosovo's ethnic Albanians demanding independence.

The six nation contact group on Kosovo set up a three member negotiating team consisting of an American, a German, and a Russian. This group is at the center of the London meeting, which also includes diplomats from France, Italy, and Britain. The trio is undertaking a further round of negotiations that are to be completed by December 10. The team travels to Belgrade on Friday and to Pristina on Saturday.

The latest diplomatic effort follows Russia's decision last month to block U.N. Security Council action on a plan for Kosovo's conditional independence. The plan was drafted by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari who spent 12 months trying to get the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians to agree on the territory's future.

Mr. Ahtisaari's plan calls for limited independence of Kosovo, an international security force and strong guarantees of minority rights. Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999 when NATO bombing drove Serb forces fighting an Albanian insurgency out of the territory. Kosovo's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority say they will settle for nothing less than independence.

The delay in determining status is causing consternation in Pristina. Xhemail Halili is the director of Kosovo's Chamber of Commerce. He claims investors are staying away because of the uncertainty and says there are worries that status might not be decided by the end of the year.

"Everything is waiting for the resolution of the final status of Kosovo," he said. "We are afraid, first of all, that the status might be delayed even more, beyond the end of the year."

The German member of the negotiation team, Wolfgang Ischinger, called on Serbs and Kosovar Albanians to work harder to find agreement.

President Bush has said that Kosovo's independence is inevitable.