U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried has reaffirmed the Bush administration's position that Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo must be granted independence.

Fried said an independent Kosovo is in Serbia's best interest.  He told reporters at the State Department Friday that a unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence would be the worst of all solutions, but that postponing a final decision could only lead to instability. 

The U.S. official urged leaders in Belgrade to acknowledge that late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic lost Kosovo when he engaged in a war with NATO and committed crimes against citizens in the province.

In a reference to recent anti-U.S. remarks by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, Fried said they would not affect the American policy of goodwill toward Serbia.

Mr. Kostunica last week reacted angrily to President Bush's calls for a quick decision on Kosovo independence.  Serbia, backed by Russia, is adamantly rejecting independence for the province, which it considers an integral part of its territory.

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since 1999, and its majority ethnic Albanian population is getting impatient with repeated delays in deciding the future status of the province.

The Slovenian news agency quotes United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as telling Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel that he expects some new developments on Kosovo after the meeting between President Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the United States next month.