Kosovo's U.N. governor has told the Security Council any further delay in settling the province's status could fuel instability and play into the hands of extremists. Correspondent Peter Heinlein reports from the U.N.

The U.N. special representative to Kosovo Joachim Rucker says anxiety has risen since western powers postponed a decision on the region's status until after next month's election in Serbia. Briefing the Security Council Wednesday, Rucker said keeping momentum in the status process is crucial to maintaining calm in the volatile Muslim-majority province.

"Delay is more than just a loss of time. Delay will raise tension and play into the hands of extremists on all sides. Delay will not make a solution easier, it will make it more difficult," he said.

He said no one can have an interest in delaying the process of deciding Kosovo's future.

But Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin charged that the threat of mass unrest constitutes 'blackmail' by Kosovo's leaders. He said any measures to incite violence in the province could lead to further delays and a possible halt in the status process.

U.N. diplomats say the most likely outcome of the status process is independence for Kosovo under European Union supervision, secured by a NATO peace force the currently number about 17-thousand troops.

Washington's acting U.N. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff called on all sides to be realistic about the outcome.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku attended the meeting but did not speak. Afterward, he told reporters he is confident that independence is near. "We strongly believe and hope Kosovo is going to be independent because it is the only workable, practical, and the only right and fair solution. Any political association with Belgrade simply will not work," he said.

The head of Serbia's Kosovo office, Sandra Raskovic Ivic told the Security Council Belgrade wants an immediate resumption of Vienna talks on the status issue.

The U.N.'s mediator on Kosovo, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari is due to announce the status decision soon after Serbia's January 21 election. Kosovo has been under the U.N. administration since 1999 when NATO bombing halted Serbia's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.