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Moscow Tries To Steer Kosovo Decision Toward Security Council

'Troika' mediators from Russia, the EU, and the U.S. (left to right) (epa) December 4, 2007 -- Russia has launched a late-hour appeal to place the fate of Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo in the hands of the UN Security Council, in an apparent bid to forestall a quick declaration of independence from Prishtina followed by recognition from foreign governments.

A leadership role for the Security Council, where Russia holds veto power, could boost Moscow's ability to eliminate some options as internationally mediated talks wind down on Kosovars' demand for independence from Serbia.

Russia has already blocked one Western-backed independence plan for Kosovo at the UN.

The United States and European Union are the other two members of the co-called troika mediating the current talks. The United States and the most powerful EU members are expected to quickly recognize Kosovo's independence if it is declared.

Russian mediator Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko reportedly told fellow troika members during a visit to the region that the Security Council should have the final word on the UN-administered province, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians impatient for independence.

"I see there is room for compromise," Botsan-Kharchenko, Russia's envoy to the talks, said. "There is room for [an] additional or continuous negotiating process."

But fresh off a strong showing in parliamentary elections in mid-November, independence backers appear in no mood for postponement of a final-status decision.

"We consider this process closed and we consider that there is no need for further processes." Kosovar President Fatmir Sejdiu said in Prishtina on December 3.

No Common Ground

The three diplomats who are leading the latest, four-month round of talks on Kosovo's future spent December 3 in Prishtina and Belgrade, where they briefed Serbian and Kosovar leaders on the reports they will present to the UN's secretary-general on December 10.

Many have regarded these talks as a last-ditch effort to bring Belgrade and Prishtina together.

Once the 120 days of talks officially end on December 10, Serbia's breakaway province is widely expected to declare its unilateral independence, while Belgrade has said it will annul using diplomatic and legal means.

"The troika regrets the fact that no negotiated solution has been agreed through this troika process," EU mediator Wolfgang Ischinger said last week.

Ischinger was quoted in the Serbian daily "Blic" on December 3 as conceding that a "possible scenario" could see Kosovo's leaders declare independence unilaterally. But he said his "impression" was that they would coordinate their moves "to the extent possible, with the EU, the U.S., and other countries."

U.S. envoy Frank Wisner said participants "carefully considered, with the parties, every reasonable option that would provide a way forward to common ground," but warned that "common ground was not found during the course of these 120 days."

Independence for Kosovo is strongly opposed by Serbia, and by Russia, which backs Serbia's desire to maintain some authority over Kosovo.

Official results of Kosovo's parliamentary elections that were released on December 3, but not yet certified by the head of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), showed that the victor in the elections was Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), whose 34.3 percent of the vote translated into 37 seats in the 120-member parliament.

Thaci, the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), is widely expected to become prime minister as a result, strengthening the hand of those seeking early independence.

There are fears among the international community that a unilateral declaration of independence might exacerbate tensions in the province and spill over into renewed fighting between the two populations.

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