The UN Security Council took the historic decision last night to begin talks on the future of Kosovo " over-riding Serbian objections and calling for negotiations on the territory's final status to begin. If Western powers have their way, the process, following appointment of a UN envoy, is expected to lead to 'conditional independence' for the ethnic Albanian-majority territory within a year.
That means Kosovo would no longer be part of Serbia but its independence would, for a transitional period, be curtailed, rather like that of Bosnia where policy is shaped by a highlevel representative of the international community.
After a meeting attended by Serbia's President Vojislav Kostunica, the 15-member council decided to act on a recommendation by the UN secretary general Kofi Annan to begin the final-status talks.
Mr Kostunica told the council that 'dismemberment of a democratic state and the change of its internationally recognised borders against its will are options not to be contemplated'. Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999, when Nato forced Serbian forces out. Some 100,000 Serbs remain out of a population of two million.