Serbia

Kosovo: Serbia, ethnic Albanians remain 'diametrically opposed' on UN plan for status

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Serbia and the ethnic Albanian government of Kosovo remain "diametrically opposed" following week-long talks on United Nations proposals for the future status of the Serbian province which the world body has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting, the office of the senior UN envoy on the issue said today.

Serbia rejects independence, a goal sought by many Albanians who outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1 in the province.

Last month Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy for the future status process Martti Ahtisaari proposed that Kosovo will have the right to govern itself and conclude international agreements, including membership in international bodies, with an international civilian and military presence supervising the new arrangements and helping to ensure peace and stability.

In a press release, the Special Envoy's Office said he would review the positions presented by both sides during seven days of talks in Vienna, where he has his headquarters, and prepare a revised proposal which will be made available to the parties next week.

He has invited the parties to attend a high-level meeting in Vienna on 10 March, to which he has also invited the so-called Contact Group - the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Russia - which has been helping to seek a solution, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) whose forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 and who now help to maintains security in the province, and the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

"The discussions reaffirmed that the parties remained diametrically opposed on the future status of Kosovo," according to the press release. "These positions reflected in the parties' comments on and proposed changes to the comprehensive settlement. The parties also continued to differ on other key provisions of the Settlement, (e.g. constitutional provisions, decentralization, and cultural and religious heritage.)"

When he presented his proposals at the beginning of February, Mr. Ahtisaari said he would deliver his final draft to the Security Council at the end of March after consulting with parties.