PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro -- Kosovo's ethnic Albanian political leaders will launch a group Tuesday meant to narrow their differences as this U.N.-run province nears possible talks with Serbia over its future status.
Some officials hope the body will help unify the bitterly divided ethnic Albanian political parties so they can develop a strategy ahead of possible final status talks.
The forum -- which comprises political parties, the province's president, prime minister and opposition leaders -- will have a consultative role rather than any executive authority, as demanded by opposition parties here.
Kosovo is legally part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia. But it has been under U.N. and NATO control since a NATO-led air war halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999. The province's future political fate has yet to be determined.
The ethnic Albanian majority insists on independence, while the Serb minority seeks to remain part of Serbia-Montenegro.
International officials have made talks on the province's future status conditional on progress in eight sectors, including establishing functioning democratic institutions, reform of local government, protection of minorities, promotion of economic development, and ensuring rule of law, freedom of movement and property rights.
U.N.'s Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the council last week that the United Nations will review Kosovo's progress toward achieving standards for democracy and multiethnicity this summer, a move which could pave the way for possible discussion of its future status.