Tuesday, May 17, 2005

U.S. Planning New Strategy Toward Kosovo

WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States plans a new strategy to resolve the status of Kosovo, the Serbian territory that has been under United Nations administration since 1999.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the strategy will be "consistent with the goals of promoting regional stability and protecting the rights of all of Kosovo's citizens," especially its Serb minority.

Boucher said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns will discuss the U.S. plan Wednesday before the House International Relations Committee.

The United States and its NATO allies launched a bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999 after the Serb government forced large numbers of Kosovo's majority Albanian population to flee to neighboring countries.

"We think we're now entering a new stage in our policy toward the Balkans, one that will accelerate the region's integration into Euro- Atlantic institutions," Boucher said.

He said the United Nations this summer will review Kosovo's progress on achieving standards for democracy and multi-ethnicity.

"If that review is positive, the international community will launch a diplomatic process to determine Kosovo's future status," Boucher said.

The International Crisis Group, a private group which makes recommendations on bringing about peace in global trouble spots, said in a report earlier this year that Kosovar Albanians are becoming increasingly restless.

"The Albanian majority expects the international community to begin delivering this year on its independence aspirations. Without such moves it may act unilaterally," the report said.

In such circumstances, given the "dismal record" of Kosovo Albanians with regard to minorities, Kosovo's Serbs may call upon Serbia's armed forces to protect them, and the region could be plunged into new turmoil, the report said.

The United States has had strained relations with Serbia for years because two of the most wanted Serbs from the Bosnian war -- political leader Radovan Karadic and military commander Ratko Mladic -- remain at large.

They were indicted almost a decade ago by a Hague-based international tribunal for the acts of brutality committed against Muslims in the Bosnian city of Srebrenica.

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