10 July 2007

Rice says U.S. eager to support Kosovo and avoid "blow up"

Associated Press, Friday, February 16, 2007 12:19 PM

WASHINGTON-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that the United States is eager to support Kosovo as the contested Serbian province's future is determined.

But she said negotiators face a difficult task as they work to avoid a "blow up."

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority is demanding full independence, while Serbia insists that Kosovo remain part of its territory. On Friday, Albanian leaders said they saw no chance of reaching an agreement with Serbia on a U.N. proposal that could grant the province internationally supervised statehood.

The two sides are to meet next week for a final round of negotiations on the plan.

"Everybody understands that it's going to be a rocky road as Kosovo obtains a different status," Rice said at a congressional hearing.

Rice said the United States wants to support democracy in both Kosovo and in Serbia. "Because we don't need, in this last piece of the unification of Europe around democratic principles, to have Kosovo blow up."

The U.N. plan envisages internationally supervised self-rule and the trappings of statehood, such as a flag, anthem, army and constitution, while giving Kosovo's minority Serbs more control over their day-to-day affairs.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since mid-1999, when NATO airstrikes halted a Serbian crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians and forced Belgrade to relinquish control.