PRISTINA (AP)--U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns arrived in Kosovo Thursday for talks with leaders of this disputed province on its future status.
Burns, the State Department's third-ranking official, will meet with the province's prime minister, president and its negotiating team, a week after U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan recommended the start of talks that could lead to the independence of Kosovo.
Annan's recommendation to the U.N. Security Council was delivered with a report that said enough progress had been made in creating the institutions to make a government work in Kosovo. Europe and the U.S. mustn't allow the region to stagnate or fade from international attention, the report said.
Diplomats have argued that only a lasting peace will create political certainty demanded by investors and donors - the outsiders who can provide the cash needed to restart a hobbled economy and rebuild Kosovo's infrastructure.
Burns said earlier that Kosovo's uncertain political status "is no longer sustainable," and that talks on its future should start before the end of the year and continue in a "rapid and focused way."
Kosovo has been run by a U.N. mission - with a strong North Atlantic Treaty 0rganization 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.
The issue of Kosovo's fate is highly contentious because the province's majority ethnic Albanians want full independence, but the Serb minority insists that Kosovo remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires