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US Supports Internationally Supervised Independence for Kosovo

The top U.S. envoy for final status talks on the Serbian province of Kosovo says he fully supports the U.N.-administered region's independence, under supervision of the international community. VOA's Stephanie Ho has more on the story.

U.S. Ambassador Frank Wisner says it is time to resolve the status of Kosovo, which has been in question since a U.S.-led war in 1999 to stop Serbian atrocities against the ethnic-Albanian population.

"Eight years have gone by," he said. "Eight years, and now frankly, after eight years, one needs to move on and get a settlement."

Wisner fully supported the plan that U.N. special envoy for Kosovo Martii Ahtisaari outlined Tuesday to the U.N. Security Council, which will have the final say on the proposal.

Ethnic Albanians make up the bulk of Kosovo's population and have urged independence.

The Ahtisaari proposal does not recommend the province's outright independence, but grants it so-called "supervised independence" which would put it on the road to statehood. It also calls for broad rights for the minority Serbs in the province, allowing them to preserve their culture and identity, and run their own municipalities.

Belgrade, with the support of Russia, wants Kosovo to remain an autonomous region of Serbia and has rejected the Ahtisaari plan.

Moscow's objection to the plan is seen as one of the main stumbling blocks. Russia is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and therefore can veto any proposal.

Wisner said Russia joined the Ahtisaari negotiations on Kosovo when they began more than one year ago. He said the U.S. government hopes for a diplomatic solution and to, in his words, "end this association over Kosovo in the same spirit of collaboration and cooperation that we began it."

"We believe that it is right to talk, think this through very carefully, work closely together," he added.

He indicated that President Bush has called President Putin to discuss the Kosovo issue, and that Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns has been meeting with Russian officials in New York.

But when asked by a reporter what Washington thinks of a Russian request for more time for talks on Kosovo, Wisner said, "The possibility of reaching any different conclusion has been exhausted." He pointed out that there have been 15 months of negotiations, and warned that if they were begun again, the end point could be worse.

The U.N. Security Council debate on Kosovo opened Monday. The international body will consider the Ahtisaari proposal and draft a resolution, a process that Wisner indicated could still take some time.