Final talks on Kosovo's future will begin soon, with the question of independence for the southern Serbian province on the table, Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, said yesterday. He told reporters in the Swiss capital that he would notify the UN security council that he wanted the discussions to begin soon, adding: "The question concerns independence or autonomy."
Mr Annan said he would soon appoint a special envoy to lead the discussions with authorities in Serbia-Montenegro, Kosovo and "other important parties".
The future status of the ethnically divided province is a highly contentious issue. The ethnic Albanian majority demands full independence, but the Serb minority insists that the province should remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia.
Mr Annan was speaking days after he received a report by an envoy, Kai Eide, who has been examining whether the former warring sides are ready to negotiate.
Kosovo has been run by the UN and patrolled by Nato peacekeepers since the alliance's 1999 air war that halted a Serb crackdown on separatist Albanians. The UN Kosovo administrator, Soren Jessen-Petersen refused to speculate on whether that role of special envoy might fall to Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, tipped as the most likely candidate, but facing objections from Belgrade. AP