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UN Security Council Kosovo Talks End in Stalemate

The U.N. Security Council failed to break a deadlock over the future of the Serbian province of Kosovo Wednesday. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau reports the failure has raised concerns about a showdown between Serbia and its allies, including Russia, and supporters of Kosovo's plans to declare independence, the European Union and United States.

Months of talks between Kosovo and Serbia mediated by the so-called troika - the European Union, Russia and the United States - ended in November without an agreement on the province's future.

Kosovo's overwhelmingly Albanian majority wants independence. Serbia has offered Kosovo substantial autonomy, but says independence for the U.N.-administered province violates Serbia's territorial integrity. The United Nations has administered Kosovo since 1999 when NATO drove out Serbian forces involved in ethnic cleansing.

After Wednesday's Security Council meeting, the European Union and the United States said all possibilities for an agreement have been exhausted due to the irreconcilable issue of sovereignty.

President of Kosovo Fatmir Sejdiu said the meeting ends an important cycle. Mr. Sejdiu said Kosovars are ready to move towards independence.

"For us it is extremely important that we are committed to the forming of a new democratic government with protection of the rights for all its communities," he said. "It is our hope that in the future, we will be able to establish equally good, neighborly and friendly relations with Serbia.

But Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that during the Security Council meeting Serbia insisted that talks continue. He warned of a dangerous era in international affairs if the Security Council allows Kosovo unilaterally to declare independence. Such an action, he says, violates the U.N. Charter and the Council's own resolution on Kosovo.

"Serbia defended strongly and firmly its territorial integrity and sovereignty," he said. "We also defended the idea that negotiations cannot be stopped or blocked. The Security Council should be dedicated to searching for a compromise. What is the alternative to respect of international law?"

In a statement, the European Union said it would have preferred to have the Security Council lead the way in Kosovo, but is ready to play a leading role in implementing a measure defining Kosovo's future status.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin says negotiations have been successful in closing the gap on all issues except the all-important question of sovereignty. He says Russia believes continued negotiations can produce an outcome, which will be acceptable and keep stability in the Balkans.