Saturday, September 23, 2006

U.N. envoy says time short on Kosovo talks but offers no timeline

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The chief U.N. envoy for Kosovo said Friday that time was short on U.N.-brokered efforts to determine the province's future status but that he had no "fixed deadlines."

"We have a lot of work to do, and there's not that much time," former Finnish President Maarti Ahtisaari told reporters after he gave a closed briefing for the Security Council. "I would be very hesitant to say your exact dates."

Kosovo is entering the final phase of U.N.-brokered talks that many believe will give it independence from Serbia.

Ahtisaari is working to present to the council his idea of what a future Kosovo should look like. That work, he said, would "have to continue, and, therefore, there's nothing specific that I could put to anybody at the moment. We will have to discuss with the parties still."

He said withdrawal from the talks was unlikely. "Both sides have assured me that they will come," he said. "I don't expect them to pull out of the talks."

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people, are seeking independence. While Serbs are willing to grant Kosovo broad autonomy, they see it as the heart of their ancient homeland and want it to remain a part of Serbian territory.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the U.N. General Assembly that "stability cannot be achieved if only the will of the majority population is expressed. Kosovo Serbs have to be guaranteed adequate minority protection."

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the people of the region "deserve to have their status resolved, and that's certainly the view that we'll be supporting."

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