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US Says Kosovo Solution Cannot Be Put Off; Russia Wants Continued Talks


The United States says it is time to settle the future status of Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province, while Russia says it will press for continued talks to reach a compromise between Serbia and Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians.

Speaking to NATO ministers at a meeting Friday in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a decision cannot be put off. She called for a full commitment to the principles embodied in the plan proposed by United Nations mediator Martti Ahtisaari for supervised independence for Serbia's breakaway province.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Western leaders to refrain from calling Kosovo's independence inevitable and to give the two sides a chance for genuine negotiations.

NATO foreign ministers also discussed arms control, with Secretary Rice expressing concern about Russia's decision to suspend a key European arms control pact. Russia says it wants to continue to negotiate a solution on the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, which limits troops and military equipment.

Lavrov reiterated that Moscow's moratorium of the arms control treaty will take effect on December 12th. But he said the treaty can be restored as soon as Moscow's concerns are addressed in a satisfactory manner.

The Soviet Union and NATO countries first signed the arms control treaty in 1990 to set limits on the deployment of heavy weaponry. The treaty was updated in 1999 to reflect the collapse of the Soviet Union. But NATO has refused to ratify it until Russia fulfills its commitment to withdraw forces from former Soviet bases in Georgia and Moldova.

Moscow calls those deployments peacekeeping missions.

Russia also objects to the U.S. plan to build a part of its missile-defense system in eastern Europe.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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