UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Monday for the launch within months of a U.N. review intended to lead to a final determination of whether Kosovo should gain independence or remain a part of Serbia.
Annan, in a report to the Security Council expected to be released later this week, said he was not totally satisfied with the pace of the progress achieved to date by the leaders of the Serbian province of 2 million people, which the United Nations has administered since the Balkan wars in the 1990s.
But the review process should begin this summer on the assumption of the Kosovo leaders' "continued and effective progress" toward a set of goals enabling the international community to take up Kosovo's long-term status, he said in the report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
Annan planned to soon appoint a special envoy to lead the review, he said. Among the top contenders is Kai Eide, Norway's ambassador to NATO, diplomats said.
His report surfaced a week after the United States said it wanted the international community to move more quickly to resolve Kosovo's status, left undecided after the Balkan wars in the 1990s.
The United Nations has set out a list of standards -- on law and order, functioning democratic institutions, security and human rights -- that must be met before the question of Kosovo's eventual status is taken up.
The United Nations has governed Kosovo since 1999 after a NATO bombing campaign to halt Serb repression of its ethnic Albanians. Tens of thousands of Serbs fled the province during the bombing to escape Albanians bent on revenge for Belgrade's harsh rule, and the West wants them to return home and be accepted by the Albanian community as neighbors.
Kosovo's 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority demands independence. Belgrade insists the province remain a part of Serbia.
A final decision is up to the international community, through a process outlined by the Security Council.
U.N. officials have long envisaged a mid-2005 review of the progress on the standards, with an eye to proceeding to the final status question if the results were favorable.
But Kosovo's progress in meeting the standards has been uneven, raising concerns the review could come later.
"It should be clearly understood that the outcome of the comprehensive review is not a foregone conclusion," Annan said. "During and beyond this comprehensive review, the representatives of Kosovo's provisional institutions and Kosovo's political leaders will be expected to pursue and strengthen their efforts to implement the standards, and will continue to be assessed on this basis."