12 July 2007

Serb official: U.N. plan for Kosovo stands no chance at Security Council

Associated Press, Saturday, February 17, 2007 1:24 PM

BELGRADE, Serbia-Serbia is convinced that a U.N. plan granting supervised statehood for the contested Kosovo province stands no chance of approval at the Security Council, a government minister said Saturday.

Zoran Loncar also criticized the key architect of the plan, chief U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, as "biased and working in the interest of the (Kosovo) ethnic Albanians" who have sought to split the province from Serbia.

Serb and ethnic Albanian negotiators are scheduled to meet for a final round of talks on the plan next week in Vienna, Austria. Ahtisaari has invited both sides to put forward their complaints about the draft before it is submitted to the U.N. Security Council for a final vote.

Vuk Jeremic, an adviser to Serbia's pro-Western president Boris Tadic, said Saturday that Serb negotiators were preparing a number of "amendments" to the plan that they will submit to Ahtisaari at the Feb. 21 meeting. He did not elaborate.

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

Serbia has rejected the plan. Most ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have welcomed it, but also have warned that they eventually want full independence.

Ahtisaari this week has acknowledged that chances of an agreement at the Vienna talks were slim, with both sides sticking firmly to their positions.

Loncar said Belgrade is confident the plan will fail at the U.N. Security Council because Serb ally Russia holds veto power.

Loncar said that "not only Russia and China, but a great number of other countries are against taking away 15 percent of territory from a sovereign state and a member state of the United Nations."

Russia has said it was against any solution that falls short of a compromise. On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying that Kosovo independence would have "the most negative consequences," and that Moscow could block the plan.

Although formally part of Serbia, Kosovo became an international protectorate in 1999, after a NATO bombing forced Belgrade to halt a crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists and relinquish control.

In Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, which split last year from Serbia, more than 1,000 people rallied in support of Belgrade's bid to keep Kosovo. The protesters carried banners saying "Kosovo is Serbia" and "Kosovo is Soul of Serb People."