Balkans specialist and author Misha Glenny Tuesday predicted the predominantly Albanian Serbian province of Kosovo is headed for conditional independence, with the approval of the United Nations Security Council.  Mr. Glenny also predicts the arrest soon of one of the most wanted war crime suspects, Ratko Mladic.

Mr. Glenny says he doubts that either Russia or China will veto an eventual Security Council resolution on conditional independence for Kosovo.  Roughly six years after Nato forces drove Serbian troops out of Kosovo, he says, the unacceptable absence of status for the disputed territory is finally being addressed by coordinated U.S. and European Union diplomacy.

Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, the recenly appointed special U.N. envoy, will determine in the next few months whether Kosovo has made enough progress in fulfilling international standards of governance to warrant a start of status negotiations.

Mr. Glenny cautions that because Kosovo's territorial government has not yet been able to guarantee the civil rights of the Serb minority, it would be a mistake to assume that Mr. Eide will give a green light to independence.

For Mr. Glenny a key requirement for a peaceful outcome is acquiescence by Serbia to Kosovo's independence.

"You have to have a political buy-in from Serbia,? he explained.  ?And that I don't think the European Union has been particularly good at doing. Because the European Union is the only institution that can offer the requisite incentive, which is a clear structured path to European Union membership."

Mr. Glenny says the political elites in Belgrade are prepared to accept independence for Kosovo, but for political reasons cannot say so publicly.  Mr. Glenny detects significant positive changes in Serbia as Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has skillfully outflanked his reformist rivals by giving in to EU and US requirements that Serbia cooperate with the Hague war crimes tribunal.

"The release of the Srebrenica [video] tapes [last week].. carefully coordinated between the EU, the US, the prosecutor's office in the Hague, and the Serbian government is calculated for one thing and one thing alone, and that is to soften people up and get ready for the arrest of [Ratko] Mladic, which is supposed to take place in the next month sometime," he added.