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UN Security Council Gets Kosovo Independence Draft

The United States and its European allies have circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would set Kosovo on the path to independence from Serbia. VOA's Peter Heinlein at U.N. headquarters reports sponsors are pushing for speedy approval of the measure.

The draft resolution was circulated quietly Friday after a brief discussion among Council members. American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who has made Kosovo a priority of this month's U.S. presidency of the Security Council, declined to answer questions after a brief announcement.

"The draft resolution on Kosovo sponsored by several European members of the Council, Germany and the United States, will be circulated this afternoon, and I wish you all a good weekend," he said.

The resolution distributed by email later in the day endorses special U.N. envoy Martti Ahtissaari's proposal for Kosovo's independence under European Union supervision. It sets a 120-day period for transition from U.N. to E.U. administration of the Serbian province.

Ahtisaari met with Ambassador Khalilzad Friday to discuss the details of the plan. Afterward, Ahtisaari told VOA he is encouraged by the support it has received. "I am happy that Europe and the U.S. are supporting my plan. I hope the Council will approve my plan, which has wide support," he said.

Several western diplomats have suggested the resolution could be put to a vote by the end of May, despite strong reservations by several Council members, including veto-wielding Russia and China.

Earlier this week, Ambassador Khalilzad told reporters the measure has enough support to win Council approval if no veto is cast. But Russia's ambassador Vitaly Churkin refused to rule out the veto.

Another Russian diplomat, speaking to VOA Friday on condition of anonymity, called the Ahtisaari approach 'unacceptable', but said it is too early to reject the resolution. The diplomat said Russia would withhold final judgment on the measures pending the outcome of talks next week between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

China's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Liu Zhenmin also expressed skepticism about the draft. Speaking to reporters, he questioned whether the Ahtisaari plan would work, in light of the apparently irreconcilable differences between Kosovo's Albanian majority, which demands independence, and minority Serbs, who insist on staying with Serbia. "We are afraid if the Council is going to impose a solution, we are afraid whether it would be helpful or not. That's the main issue I think, whether this is a solution or not," he said.

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999, after a NATO bombing campaign drove out Serb forces ending a brutal two-year campaign that killed an estimated 10,000 Kosovo Albanians.

The Ahtisaari plan calls for replacing that U.N. administration with a European Union mission that would have power to void laws and dismiss local officials. The E.U. would also deploy a police force that would augment the 16,000 strong NATO peace force currently in Kosovo.