WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has chosen a high-profile retired career ambassador, Frank Wisner, as envoy to U.N. talks on whether Kosovo should split from Serbia, in a that sign Washington wants to spur the negotiations, diplomats said.
Criticized for previously neglecting the Balkans, the Bush administration has focussed this year on the region -- led by the No. 3 State Department official, Nicholas Burns, who wants to press for the status talks to advance early in 2006.
The choice of a former ambassador to key nations such as India and Egypt underscores U.S. determination to influence negotiations in which Serbia has to give up at least some control of the volatile province.
"He's good, fits the profile and shows they want the job done properly," a diplomat familiar with the State Department's decision-making said on Thursday. The diplomat asked not to be named because the decision has not been made public.
Wisner, who has held top posts in U.S. corporations such as American Insurance Group, was offered and has accepted the role. But the State Department has not set a date for the announcement.
The United States has pressured Serbia by vowing to block it from joining NATO unless it resolves the territorial dispute over the region.
Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombing forced then-President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces. Some 10,000 civilians were killed during his two-year crackdown on an Albanian guerrilla insurgency.
Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority has been clamoring for independence ever since. Serbia rejects independence for Kosovo but has offered far-reaching autonomy.
The issue has been dormant for years but -- following U.S. pressure -- U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari began a mission late last month to negotiate a way out of one of Europe's biggest diplomatic predicaments.