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Russia threatens to veto UN Kosovo resolution - dept. FM

The plan proposed by a special UN envoy, which envisages granting Kosovo supervised independence, is unworkable, a Russian deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.
MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - The plan proposed by a special UN envoy, which envisages granting Kosovo supervised independence, is unworkable, a Russian deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.

As an alternative to the Martti Ahtisaari plan, Moscow has proposed sending a UN mission to Kosovo and Belgrade before continuing talks on the region's status.

The UN Security Council backed Russia's initiative April 13, and the UN mission is expected to visit Belgrade April 25-26 and Pristina April 27-28, the Serbian Tanjug news agency has said, citing UN diplomatic sources.

Vladimir Titov said the threat of a Russian veto at the UN Security Council should invigorate a search for compromise.

"The threat of a veto should stimulate the search for mutually acceptable options," he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations described a UN report on the situation in Kosovo and the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1244 as too rosy.

The situation review was presented by the UN Secretariat Monday at Russia's insistence, which has said the resolution is not being complied with, while the status of Kosovo cannot be established without Belgrade's consent.

"The report was overly optimistic. It presented a mainly positive picture, which can be understood on a purely psychological level: The UN reported on its own performance in the province. But our assessment is more objective: A number of provisions of the resolution have not been carried out," Vitaly Churkin said.

He said only a handful of Serb refugees have returned to their homes, while security measures for ethnic minorities have yet to be observed.

Churkin said Resolution 1244 could serve as a basis for negotiations between Serbia and the province's Albanian majority.

Serbia's prime minister said Monday a special UN mission should help resolve the problem of Serbian refugees in the breakaway province.

Vojislav Kostunica said Serbian authorities regard as a priority the repatriation of 200,000 Serbs who were forced to flee their homes in the province following massive acts of violence by Kosovo's majority Albanians.

"We need to find answers to some very simple questions, for example, why 40,000 Serbs are unable to return to Pristina and live a normal life there," he said.

He said the arrival of the UN mission would mark a new stage in finalizing Kosovo's status.

"Russia's initiative to send a special UN Security Council mission to review the implementation of Resolution 1244 is becoming a credible foundation for a new negotiating process," he said.

But the prime minister of Serbia's breakaway province said Friday there would be no more negotiations on Kosovo's status, and that the UN would adopt a resolution granting it full independence in May.

"Russia may demand new negotiations as much as it likes, but neither we nor other parties involved are prepared for that," Agim Ceku said.

He said he was convinced that Kosovo would become an independent state before the end of May, when the UN Security Council adopts a resolution.

"Some permanent members of the Security Council may abstain from the vote, but in the last few days of May, Kosovo will acquire independence," he said.

Some Western countries have said violence would be inevitable if Kosovo failed to secure independence. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was nothing but "blackmail."

"The view that partitioning a sovereign state can bring stability to the region is totally illogical," he said.

Lavrov reiterated his appeal for direct negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, and for a solution that would satisfy both Kosovar and Serbian authorities.

The Serbian government reacted strongly Tuesday to recent comments by a U.S. administration official concerning independence for Kosovo.

Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said Monday that if the UN Security Council does not adopt a new resolution on Kosovo granting the province independence, the U.S. would unilaterally support a declaration by Kosovo's Albanian authorities on separation from Serbia.

"The U.S. position in favor of full independence for Kosovo, which was enunciated by Nicholas Burns, runs counter to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, enshrining Serbia's territorial integrity," the Serbian government said in a statement.

It said any unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence would be a gross violation of the UN Charter.

Serbia is strongly opposed to independence for the province, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians, but the United States and the European Union have expressed support for sovereignty.

Kosovo, which has a population of two million, has been a UN protectorate since NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia ended a war between Serb forces and Albanian separatists in 1999.

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