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US Backs UN Envoy's Efforts for a Final Solution in Kosovo

The United States has reaffirmed its support for the efforts of United Nations Kosovo envoy Martti Ahtisaari for determining the final status of the breakaway Serbian province.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called on all sides of the issue to sit down and listen to the envoy's proposals, which Ahtisaari is to present to leaders in Belgrade and Pristina on Friday.

The proposal is widely expected to grant the U.N.-administered province some attributes of a sovereign state, while guaranteeing the security of its Serb minority.

Outgoing Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has said he will not meet with the mediator, insisting that he has no mandate to discuss the issue. He urged Ahtisaari to delay his trip until the formation of a new Serbian government following last month's parliamentary elections.

Mr. Kostunica's party has also suggested that Serbia cut diplomatic ties with all countries that recognize Kosovo independence.

U.N.-mediated talks on Kosovo between representatives of the province's ethnic Albanian majority and the Belgrade government opened last February, but little progress is reported. The Albanians want independence, while Belgrade insists on maintaining some control over the area.

The Serbian province has been under U.N. administration since 1999, when NATO air strikes in response to the Kosovo crisis drove Serbian and Yugoslav security forces from the area.

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