Kosovo leaders to press Rice on independence

Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku called for a timetable for the province's independence from Serbia ahead of talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington.

Kosovo leaders to press Rice on independence
Ceku said the province's ethnic Albanian majority was growing tired of waiting after the United States and its European allies dropped a bid to secure a UN resolution on independence in the face of a Russian veto threat.

"It is time to look for new approaches and to propose them because the process of defining the status through the (UN) Security Council has failed," Ceku said before departing Pristina for the United States.

"There is no time to wait," he added.

In the face of strong Serbian and Russian opposition, Western powers withdrew their push for Kosovo independence from the Security Council on Friday but pledged to pursue their plans through the so-called Contact Group.

The failed resolution would have given Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders another 120 days for talks -- which have gone nowhere in the past -- before granting independence under international supervision.

The Contact Group comprises Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States.

Russia is a close ally of Serbia and has refused to support independence without the approval of Belgrade, which insists the UN has no right to disown it of sovereign territory.

Moscow reminded its Contact Group partners Saturday that no legitimate international decision on the future of Kosovo could be taken outside the Security Council.

"We stress that the suspension of the UN Security Council's work on Kosovo does not mean the issue no longer falls under the UN's oversight," the Russian foreign ministry said.

"Only the Security Council's verdict can be legitimate."

The ministry also dismissed any suggestion of a new timetable for Kosovo independence, saying a "new cycle of negotiations must not be limited in time."

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign helped end a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatist guerrillas and their supporters.

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu, who is accompanying Ceku to Washington for Monday's meeting with Rice, said there was no time to waste for an alternative route to independence which bypassed the Security Council.

"I think that the Kosovo issue will be solved very quickly by an alternative route and that Kosovo will become an independent and internationally recognised state," he said.

Ceku has said the Kosovo parliament should vote on a resolution on whether to proclaim independence after he returns from the United States. But he has also insisted Kosovo Albanians would not unilaterally proclaim independence.

The Kosovo daily Express has reported that Ceku wants to proclaim independence on November 28, independence day in neighboring Albania.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Temmuz 2007, 11:22