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Top US Diplomat: Kosovo Making Progress

America's top diplomat in charge of Balkans affairs says Kosovo is making progress in implementing U.N. standards of governance ahead of an upcoming review by the major powers.

Outgoing American under-secretary for political affairs Marc Grossman says Kosovo has made headway in meeting U.N. standards on good governance, but needs to do more, especially in improving human rights for Serbian and other ethnic minorities.

The United Nations, which has administered Kosovo since NATO forced Serbian forces out of the province nearly six years ago, is expected to discuss Kosovo's final status later this year.

Mr. Grossman says he is optimistic that the European Union, which has a large voice in the U.N. deliberations, will reach a consensus on Kosovo's future by mid-March. He says 2005 will be a turning point for Kosovo's future.

Under U.N. rules, Kosovo must meet a series of good governance standards, including those on human rights, independent judiciary and privatization before the process of determining the province's final status can even begin. 

Mr. Grossman, who is one of the authors of those standards, says the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina must make further progress on assuring the human rights of Kosovo's non-Albanian minority.

“I don't believe there will ever be a Kosovo that is successful and democratic until all of the people there-Serbs and Roma and others-feel that they can live as citizens, peacefully and in dignity. And that is not unfortunately the case yet for the Serbian minority,” said Mr. Grossman.

He rejects suggestions that the United States is scaling back its role in the Balkans, but added he would welcome greater European presence in Bosnia and Kosovo.

“For example, the transfer of the NATO force to a European Union force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, that is a very good thing. I think the fact that the United Nations takes on an important role in Pristina, that's a good thing. And would I like to see more involvement of European countries in the region? Yes, I would,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kosovo's and Serbian officials have agreed to hold talks on economics, refugee return, and privatization. Those talks are scheduled to take place in Belgrade next month.

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