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Serbia Urges Security Council to Prevent Kosovo From Seceding Sunday


Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told the UN Security Counci, Thursday, Belgrade will do everything in its power short of resorting to violence to prevent the breakaway province of Kosovo from seceding. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau reports the Council met at the request of Serbia Thursday in anticipation of Kosovo's expected declaration of independence Sunday.

Jeremic says Serbia will use its diplomatic, economic, and political clout to undermine Kosovo's independence plans. But the Serbian foreign minister says Belgrade will stick to previous pledges not to use force to keep the province and its majority ethnic Albanian population from seceding on Sunday.

Belgrade has offered Kosovo autonomy but says independence violates international law and interferes with Serbia's sovereignty.

Serbia and its chief ally, Russia, say Kosovo's independence will unleash a wave of secessionist bids from dissatisfied territories across the globe.

Jeremic says he believes a majority of Security Council members favor continued negotiations.

"Serbia is willing to work to find a compromise solution, to find a solution that is going to be acceptable for both us and the Kosovar Albanians," said Vuk Jeremic. "Such solutions are possible. This is not the first time in history that it is difficult to find a solution. But it would be first time in history that the international community declares it is too hard so, therefore, let's not continue looking for one."

After a series of failed negotiations on the issue, the Security Council declared itself hopelessly deadlocked in December. Russia and Serbia maintain the Council could still take last minute actions to prevent Kosovo's secession. But most western nations are expected to recognize an independent Kosovo.

The United Nations has administered the breakaway province since June 1999 after NATO troops bombed Serbia into withdrawing its troops from the province following an ethnic cleansing campaign. British ambassador John Sawers says there is no prospect of the two sides reaching an agreement.

"As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, Kosovo is unique because of the circumstances in which it came under UN administration in 1999 and the fact that there is a mandatory Security Council resolution, 1244, which calls for a political process leading to a final status for the territory," said John Sawers.

Diplomats from dozens of nations crowded the Security Council chamber to listen to the debate, showing the intense interest in the issue.