PRISTINA, Serbia, Oct 30, 2006 (AFP) -
The special UN envoy in talks on Kosovo's future, Martti Ahtisaari, has proposed offering the Serbian province and its ethnic-Albanian majority limited sovereignty, a report said Monday.
Ahtisaari, who has been leading talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the status of Kosovo, stepped short of proposing the independence for the UN-run province, said Kosovo's independent Express newspaper.
The Finnish diplomat recommended forming "the newest state in the Balkans ... with limited sovereignty, a continued international presence and competencies in important fields," it said, quoting unnamed diplomatic sources.
"It is clear that the competencies given to Kosovo mean only one thing -- independence with limited sovereignty," said the daily, known for its good contacts with Western diplomats.
The negotiations on the future status of the southern Serbian province, administered by the United Nations since June 1999, began in February under the auspices of the world body.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who make up around 90 percent of the province's two million population, are seeking independence from Serbia.
But the government in Belgrade and Kosovo's Serb minority insist the province -- which they consider the cradle of Serbian culture and history -- should only be granted greater autonomy.
The report came after 52.3 percent of the Serbian electorate backed a new constitution in a weekend referendum, which stresses that Kosovo is part of Serbia.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanians were barred from voting, after they boycotted earlier polls.
Earlier this month, Ahtisaari submitted a 53-page report on the course of the talks and his recommendation for Kosovo to the Contact Group of leading countries overseeing peace in the Balkans.
Its members include the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.
Ahtisaari was against giving Kosovo full international recognition with a UN seat, foreign ministry and army, the daily said.
However, Kosovo would have an "ability to sign international treaties and agreements, including membership in some international organisations," it reported.
The European Union would take administrative control of political issues in the province from the United Nations, it added.
"Ahtisaari is waiting for comments from the Contact Group before presenting his proposal to the United Nations Security Council," it said.
The daily speculated that Kosovo's provisional parliament "would adopt (its own) new constitution and declare independence" from Serbia after the United Nations adopted a resolution on its new status.
"The Kosovo government will seek official recognition and a seat in the international organisations," it added.
The province came under United Nations and NATO control in mid-1999 after the alliance's 11-week bombing campaign ended a brutal crackdown by the Serbian security forces under the regime of late leader, Slobodan Milosevic.
The international community has insisted that UN-sponsored talks must wind up by the end of the year, but so far neither side has shown any signs of compromise.