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Russia Urges Full UN Review of Kosovo Independence Plan

Russia is calling for a full review of the process that led to a U.N. mediator's proposal for Kosovo independence from Serbia. Correspondent Peter Heinlein at U.N. headquarters reports Moscow is asking the Security Council to begin the review with a visit to the region.

A day after the U.N. mediator Martti Ahtisaari recommended independence for Kosovo, Russia served notice that it does not consider the case closed. At a closed-door meeting, Moscow's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin asked the Security Council for a fundamental re-examination of how its 1999 resolution on the region's future status is being implemented.

Ambassador Churkin said the review of Resolution 1244 should start with a mission to regional capitals, Pristina and Belgrade. "We suggested that the Security Council request a comprehensive review of the implementation of 1244. As you know this is a Security Council resolution adopted back in 1999 and which has been and still is the foundation of all international efforts in Kosovo. To us it is logical and, in fact, imperative to see where the international community stands on the implementation of Resolution 1244 before we can, with all the responsibility invested in us by the international community, consider Mr. Ahtisaari's proposal," he said.

In his report to the Council, Ahtisaari called independence for Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority 'the only viable option' for stability in the region. He said he had reached the decision after concluding that efforts to find a negotiated solution between Serbia and Kosovo had been exhausted.

He is scheduled to brief the Security Council on his findings next week.

But Russia, which holds a Security Council veto, has said it would not approve any solution of the dispute that is not acceptable to both sides.

Ambassador Churkin Tuesday urged more discussions, calling the Kosovo dispute "possibly the most important issue to come before the Security Council this year, or this decade". He suggested the Ahtisaari proposal could set a dangerous precedent for other independence-minded regions in many countries.

Churkin carefully avoided criticism of Ahtisaari, calling him a good friend of Russia. But the envoy warned those who he said give "false signals" to Kosovo. "This issue is quite complicated. We are trying to deal with it in a manner which would create as few ripples as possible internationally. It has been complicated by those in the past who seem to have given false signals and false promises in a situation where they shouldn't have and couldn't have, where they should have based themselves on Resolution 1244," he said.

Despite the Russian objection, American and European diplomats Tuesday remained optimistic that the Kosovo independence process is on track. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns had said Monday he expects five to seven weeks of consultations to find a way forward before the Council votes on a resolution.

The United Nations has administered the Serbian province since 1999, after a NATO bombing campaign drove out Serb forces that had been conducting a brutal crackdown on ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the region's population.