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U.S. "determined to end political limbo in Kosovo''

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Pristina (dpa) - The United States is determined to end the six-year political limbo in internationally administrated Kosovo amid growing tensions between Serbia and the province ahead of talks on the province's final status later this year, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Wednesday.

"I came to Pristina to talk with the governmental and political leaders about the future, because this is a decisive year for Kosovo,'' Burns said.

His visit came as a part Washington's initiative to speed up the political process, which would eventually end with a sustainable solution for the province's status, despite the current opposition of ethnic Serbs and Albanians, the main players in the dispute.

"The U.S. supports the start of talks this year'', Burns said after a series of talks with ethnic Albanian leaders and the head of the U.N. administration Soren Jessen-Petersen, who urged leaders in the Kosovo capital of Pristina to create a joint strategy ahead of talks.

The exact date of negotiations has not yet been set, but western diplomats hinted that Belgrade and Pristina, bitterly opposed the proposed outcome.

The multi-level negotiations would start only after the newly appointed U.N. envoy for evaluation of standards in Kosovo, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, gives the green light.

U.S. officials, who will be actively engaged in status talks, said they expect a positive evaluation of democratic standards and minority issues, and pledged Washington's full support for their Kosovars' "wish to determine their own future''

"But, the outcome should be the result of negotiations and compromise'', Burns said.

Kosovo, formally part of Serbia, has been run by a United Nations mission since 1999, when NATO bombing ended a Serb crackdown on Kosovo's separatist ethnic Albanians.

The status of the province remains unresolved, with Kosovan Albanians demanding full independence and Serbia offering "wide autonomy''.

Kosovo Albanian leaders, including President Ibrahim Rugova already rejected the possibility of the province's future status being determined after negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina.

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