LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP)--U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said in remarks published Monday Washington opposes the division along ethnic lines of Kosovo, a Serbian province now administered by the U.N. and the North Atlantic Traty Organization.
"We do not believe partition (of Kosovo) could be a solution. We are opposed to that," Burns told leading Slovene daily Delo. "We oppose any change to the borders of Kosovo. We oppose changes of borders in the Balkans in general."
U.N.-mediated negotiations on Kosovo's future status are expected to begin in January. Although still officially a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the U.N. since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign halted the Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
Belgrade and Kosovo's Serb minority want the province to remain within Serbia's borders, while the province's majority ethnic Albanians seek full independence.
European Union officials have said the province cannot return to being directly ruled from Serbia. They also oppose the idea of its partition between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.
Burns said the U.S. "fully supports" Martti Ahtisaari, the U.N. envoy who is to lead the Kosovo talks.
The status quo in Kosovo "cannot be maintained...it has to be changed," he said.
Washington believes that "the only people who can make a decision on the future of Kosovo are the people who live there: the Kosovar Albanians, the Kosovar Serbs as well as the Serbian government, of course," Delo quoted Burns as saying.
However, he said, "you have a situation where 90% of Kosovar people are Albanians, and their views have to be listened to and respected," he said.
Burns is in Ljubljana at a meeting of ministers of the 55 members of the top trans-Atlantic security agency the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires