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US Wants 'Final Conclusion' to Kosovo Status


The United States said Friday it wants to see an early end to deliberations over Kosovo's final status. The Bush administration is widely expected to join European allies in recognizing an independence move by Kosovo, which reportedly could come on Sunday. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

State Department officials say diplomacy over Kosovo continues, but that the United States wants an early resolution of the issue along the lines of the settlement plan of U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari.

The Ahtisaari plan would give Kosovo, a Serbian province administered by the United Nations since 1999, internationally-supervised independence.

NATO intervened in Kosovo that year to end a bloody crackdown by Serb forces on the region's ethnic-Albanian majority. Under the envisaged independence scenario, NATO forces would remain indefinitely to keep the peace and protect Kosovo's minority Serbs.

Serbia bitterly opposes the separation of Kosovo, to which it has offered a high degree of autonomy. But the United States and key European allies say there can be no going back to the pre-1999 situation.

In a talk with reporters Friday, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States recognizes it is an emotional, sensitive issue for Serbia but that it is important to "bring some final conclusion" to Kosovo's status.

"Ultimately, we believe that implementation of the Ahtisaari plan with some form of supervised independence is the right course to follow," he said. "Everybody understands that. That's been our consistent view, and we believe that following that course will ultimately lead to a more peaceful, stable region."

McCormack reiterated that Serbia should have a "European horizon," reflecting the U.S. view that a Kosovo settlement will speed the integration of Serbia - a diplomatic outcast since the 1990s Balkans conflict - with the EU and other regional institutions.

He also again rejected assertions by Russia, a diplomatic ally of Serbia, that Kosovo independence would inspire separatist movements elsewhere in Europe, such as in Georgia's troubled Abkhazia region.

McCormack said the argument has no basis and that the Kosovo case is no precedent for Abkhazia or anywhere else.

At the United Nations Thursday, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Alejandro Wolfe said the United States "profoundly regrets" that Serbian and Kosovar leaders could not reach an agreement on Kosovo's final status.

But he said the world community must not let a Kosovo stalemate undo all the other progress made after the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. He said the Ahtisaari plan is the "only viable way" to insure the rights of all Kosovars and their religious and cultural heritage.

Officials here have suggested the United States and European partners would recognize a Kosovo independence declaration within 48 hours after it is made.

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