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US: Time is Now to Resolve Kosovo Status


The United States has reaffirmed support for early action giving Kosovo what is called supervised independence under the plan of U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari. The U.N.-administered Serbian province is expected to declare independence in a matter of weeks. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

State Department officials say the United States supports, and is encouraging, a coordinated international response to the anticipated Kosovo independence move.

But they are non-committal about a New York Times report Friday that the United States and Germany have agreed to swiftly recognize an independent Kosovo and are urging the rest of Europe to follow suit.

The Times report said President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed in a recent conversation that recognition is vital to the stability of the western Balkans. It said the United States is aggressively pressing the European Union to not delay acceptance of the prospective new state, even by a week.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said he was unaware of a specific agreement to act in concert with Germany on Kosovo.

But he said U.S. support for implementing the Ahtisaari plan has long been clear and that the Bush administration expects broad international support for such an outcome.

"We believe that the time for resolving the final status of Kosovo is now," he said. "We are committed to an implementation of the Ahtisaari plan, and that includes supervised independence for Kosovo. No secret about that, but there's nothing new out there in terms of our views or our approach to this."

After months of failed negotiations with Serbia to resolve Kosovo's status, the majority ethnic-Albanian province is expected to declare independence within weeks, possibly after elections in Serbia are completed February 3.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO intervened to halt a Serb military drive against ethnic-Albanian separatists.

Serbia adamantly opposes independence for Kosovo, instead offering the region maximum autonomy. Belgrade has gotten diplomatic support from Moscow, which vows to veto any U.N. Security Council move authorizing independence.

Spokesman Casey said despite the Russian position, the United States expects the international community, broadly speaking, to be united on Kosovo's final status, as it has been throughout the diplomatic process.

A senior official here said the United States is still trying to get Russian support for the Ahtisaari formula, arguing that it would be better for Moscow to be in, rather than out of, the international consensus.

Wednesday, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns congratulated Kosovar leaders on forming a coalition government and pledged full U.S. support for the earlier possible resolution of Kosovo's final status.

A written statement said the United States believes prompt implementation of the Ahtisaari plan, including its measures to protect Kosovo's Serb minority, will promote regional stability and enable both Serbia and Kosovo to move toward greater cooperation with NATO and the European Union.

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