PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, Sept 21 (Reuters) - The United Nations, United States and European Union have agreed to appoint former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari as special envoy for the status of Kosovo, a newspaper said on Wednesday.
"There is agreement in the New York-Washington-Brussels axis that Ahtisaari be special envoy for status," Kosovo's respected Albanian daily newspaper Zeri said, quoting diplomatic sources.
The province has been a United Nations protectorate since NATO ended the 1998-99 guerrilla war by bombing Yugoslavia to compel Serbia to withdraw its forces.
Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority increasingly wants independence, but Serbia is opposed.
U.N. envoy Kai Eide is within days of submitting a report on whether Kosovo has made enough progress on democracy for talks to begin on its "final status". The United Nations will then appoint an 'envoy for status' to mediate between Belgrade and Pristina.
Agreement on that appointment would mean that "final status" talks are already slated to go ahead this year. Officially, the U.N. says it will wait for Eide's report and only appoint an "status envoy" for the negotiations if his review is positive.
"The general impression is that Ahtisaari has experience, knowledge and readiness to tackle this very important job. Two months ago he also expressed himself in favour of this job," Zeri said.
The paper said Ahtisaari would have three deputies, from the United States, the EU and Russia.
Ahtisaari, 68, started his career in the Finish diplomatic service then worked for the United Nations. He became president of Finland in 1993 and in early 1999 was one of the chief negotiators trying to end the Kosovo war.
In Helsinki, a spokeswoman for Ahtisaari said he was currently travelling. "So far I haven't heard anything. We know that the discussions have been going on."
Ahtisaari's most recent success was negotiating a peace accord between the Indonesian government and separatist rebels in Aceh province, ending a 30-year conflict which killed more than 12,000 people.
Finland has nominated him for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for the Aceh talks. He was previously nominated in 2000 and 2001.