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Serbia Seeks Kosovo Compromise Short of Independence


Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica says his government is prepared to accept any form of compromise on the future of Kosovo that does not grant the province full independence.

Writing in Wednesday's Washington Post newspaper, Mr. Kostunica said Serbia will offer ethnic Albanians in Kosovo the "greatest possible autonomy." In return, he said Belgrade will limit its demands to guarantees of protection for its borders and for Kosovo's non-Albanian minority.

Mr. Kostunica is visiting Washington. He said Tuesday that independence for Kosovo is "out of the question."

The prime minister spoke after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He is set to meet later Wednesday with Vice President Dick Cheney.

Representatives from Serbia and Kosovo this year have held six rounds of U.N.-brokered talks on Kosovo's future. They have made little progress.

Reuter news service quotes U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari as saying the highest level meeting yet between envoys and Serbian negotiators will take place later this month.

In a related development, Serbian President Boris Tadic said late Tuesday that his country is prepared to fight with all diplomatic means to keep Kosovo from gaining full independence. However, in an interview on state television, Mr. Tadic said the legacy of the late nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic has left Belgrade little room for diplomatic maneuvering. Milosovic died earlier this year while on trial facing international war crimes charges.

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999, when NATO airstrikes forced Serbian and Yugoslav security forces from the province.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.