PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - The United States will appoint a special envoy to participate in upcoming talks on Kosovo's future status, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Thursday.
Burns, the State Department's third-ranking official, said the people of the disputed U.N.-run province "have a right to know what their future will be," and he urged both sides to be ready for compromise.
"We will appoint a special American envoy to participate in support of the United Nations in these talks, and we will not favor any outcomes," Burns said after meeting with Kosovo's ailing president, Ibrahim Rugova.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants full independence, while its Serb minority and officials in Belgrade say the province should have broad autonomy but remain within Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia.
Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended that the talks start later this year, with a report saying Kosovo had shown enough progress in building democratic institutions. The report warned Europe and the U.S. not to let the tiny Balkan region fade from international attention.
Annan is expected to appoint a U.N. envoy to travel between Kosovo's capital of Pristina, Belgrade and Western capitals in trying to broker an agreement.
Burns said Kosovo's uncertain political status was unsustainable, and that talks on its future should start before the year's end and continue in a "rapid and focused way."
"The final result should be one where all the people of Kosovo can live in peace with each other," Burns said.
Kosovo has been run by a U.N. mission -- with a strong NATO peacekeeping presence -- since mid-1999, when a NATO air war forced former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to end a crackdown against rebel ethnic Albanians in the province.