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US, Europeans Revise Kosovo Independence Plan, Russia Renews Veto Threat

The United States and European allies are asking the U.N. Security Council for a four-month delay in implementing a plan for Kosovo's independence to allow more time to talk. But as VOA's Peter Heinlein reports from U.N. headquarters, veto-wielding Russia immediately termed the measure 'unacceptable'.

A draft resolution circulated Wednesday calls for a 120-day delay in implementing U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan to grant Kosovo "supervised independence" from Serbia. The latest draft replaces an earlier one that called for immediate implementation of the Ahtisaari plan.

The four-month "cooling off" period would be used to restart the deadlocked talks on the region's future between Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs.

The latest draft resolution calls on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately convene the talks.

The acting American ambassador to the U.N., Alejandro Wolff, Wednesday urged Kosovars to be patient, saying the delay would not derail the move toward Kosovo's independence.

"The outcome of this process is still the same outcome, and so I think the Kosovars will understand that," said Alejandro Wolff. "There's an expectation among many that an ideal solution would be agreement between the parties. This allows a little more time to see if this is possible."

But Russia, which staunchly opposes Kosovo's independence without Serbian consent, immediately rejected the proposed delay. Moscow's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Russia disagrees "in principle" with the idea that the Ahtisaari plan would go into force even if the talks fail to resolve outstanding issues.

"It is unacceptable, yes," said Churkin.

But Acting British Ambasador Karen Pierce said, given the past failures to break the deadlock between ethnic Albanians and Serbs, setting a final deadline is 'a fair way to proceed'.

"We have to be realistic about what a further round of negotiations can achieve," noted Karen Pierce. "It's fair to say that one way or another, Kosovo independence is going to be inevitable. It is much better that that is reached through a managed process with proper and adequate guarantees for the Kosovo Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo. And we believe the Ahtisaari provision provide for that."

Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, told Finnish television this week he expects Russia to veto any resolution on Kosovo's status. He suggested the region would gain independence by the end of the year, but he said such a solution might need to take place outside the United Nations. He did not elaborate.

Kosovo is a province of Serbia, but has been under U.N. administration since 1999, when NATO bombers drove out Serb forces who had killed an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians during a two-year war.