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No Sign of Progress in Latest Talks Between Serbians, Kosovo Albanians

Serbian and Kosovo Albanian negotiators, meeting in Vienna, have concluded the first day of their latest talks on the status of Serbia's breakaway province, with no sign of progress.

Serbian team leader Leon Kojen told reporters Wednesday his side can not accept the plan presented by United Nations mediator Martti Ahtisaari because it disregards the integrity of Serbian territory and its sovereignty. He said his team proposed amendments, which would give Kosovo broad autonomy within Serbian borders.

The head of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian team, Veton Surroi, called the Serbian suggestions a contradiction of the mediator's plan and unacceptable to his side which is pursuing independence.

Earlier, Ahtisaari offered little hope for a compromise. The mediator's plan offers the province self-government and membership in international organizations but stops just short of outright independence.

The Vienna talks are set to run through the first week in March. Ahtisaari says he wants to present his plan to the U.N. Security Council by mid-month.

Ahtisaari's plan has also split the United States and Russia. Washington supports the U.N. plan, while Moscow warns that breaking apart a sovereign European state without its consent would set a dangerous precedent.

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999, when NATO air strikes drove Serbian and Yugoslav security forces out of the province following a deadly crackdown on ethnic Albanians.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.