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Kosovo Status Talks End in Failure

Eleventh-hour negotiations on the status of Kosovo ended in failure Wednesday. VOA's Barry Wood reports the mediators of the talks, including the European Union, Russia and the United States, will submit their report to the United Nations by December 10.

EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger declared face-to-face negotiations a failure, saying the parties could not reach agreement. He said the mediators probed every possible solution, but could not close the gap between Kosovo and Serbia.

The ethnic Albanians, comprising 90 percent of Kosovo's population of two million, demand independence. Serbia says it will accept autonomy but not independence.

Kosovo has been ruled by the United Nations since 1999 when NATO responded to Serbian ethnic cleansing with an aerial bombing campaign that drove Serbian toops out of the province.

American mediator Frank Wisner called on both parties to honor their commitment to refrain from violence. Serbia's president said the situation is serious, and the prime minister rejected an impending Kosovar declaration of independence, saying only the United Nations has that authority.

Kosovo's leaders said the negotiating process was over and they will coordinate their planned declaration of independence with the United States and the EU.

In a teleconference with reporters in Washington Wednesday, Xavier de Marnhac, the French commander of Kosovo's NATO led force, said he is prepared for any eventuality.

"KFOR for the time being is ready, ready not only in terms of planning but training, in terms of equipment," said Xavier de Marnhac.

General de Marnhac leads the 24-nation KFOR force.

James Lyon, the Belgrade-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, says the talks were not a complete failure.

"In one sense the troika negotiations have been a success in that they have proven definitely to many of the doubters within the European Union that further progress was impossible," said James Lyon. "This was an essential element in order for the European Union to get its member states to sign on to the idea of recognizing a unilateral declaration of independence."

General de Marnhac called on the international community to provide clear guidance to the NATO led force. He said he is concerned about the transition planned for early in 2008 from a United Nations administration to one headed by the European Union.