A senior Bush administration official Thursday rejected the partition of newly-independent Kosovo in any form. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns says the United States and European allies are supporting Kosovo independence in the interest of a stable Balkans. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Burns has joined the European Union's new special envoy for Kosovo, Pieter Feith, in flatly rejecting any partition of the former Serb province, while also faulting Serbia's case for retaining the area.
The United States and European partners recognized the majority ethnic-Albanian region's independence declaration last week, while also pledging steps to assure the rights of its Serb minority.
Ethnic Serbs in the northern part of Kosovo and some hardline political figures in Serbia say Belgrade should continue to run the affairs of the Kosovar Serbs in one form or another.
But in remarks to foreign reporters in Washington, reflecting Vienna comments earlier Thursday by EU diplomat Feith, Burns said the United States will not tolerate or support any move toward partition be it informal, creeping or de jure.
At the same time, Burns was sharply critical of Serbia's case against Kosovo independence as expressed by Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, who said in a New York Times commentary Wednesday a historical injustice is being imposed on his country.
Burns, the State Department's third-ranking official, said the argument of Jeremic and others is hypocritical and overlooks Serbia's brutal record in Kosovo:
"They can't forget the history of what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s," said Burns. "And it really is quite curious to see this continued, I must say, invective from the government in Belgrade about what's happening in Kosovo, when their predecessor government, in the name of the country, marched into Kosovo in 1999 and tried to drive a million Kosovar Albanian muslims out of the country, or what happened of course in Bosnia a few years earlier."
In the New York Times article, Jeremic - whose government had offered Kosovo a large degree of autonomy - said Serbia is a victim of misplaced revenge by the international community.
Jeremic said recognizing Kosovo means punishing Serbia's new democracy for the acts of a tyrant - former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic - who he said committed "heinous deeds" against Kosovar Albanians.
Milosevic was overthrown in 2000 and died as a war crimes defendant at The Hague two years ago.
Burns, who is due to retire in March, played a key role in U.S. Balkans policy in recent years.
He said the United States and key allies recognized Kosovo in the interest of Balkans stability, and expressed hope the new state will some day be in a position to seek EU and NATO membership.
Similarly, Burns said he hopes to see Serbia's ties with the United States and Europe continue to develop once passions over Kosovo cool.
In the meantime, he said the United States holds the Serbian government responsible for what happens on the streets of Belgrade, where Kosovo protesters firebombed the U.S. embassy and attacked several European missions last week.
Burns said Belgrade authorities have assured Washington there will be no repeat of those events, and that they will be held to that commitment.