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Russia warns Kosovo leaders

The US and UK counter by reaffirming their support for Kosovo's drive for independence from Serbia.

world Updated: Jan 17, 2008 11:05 IST

Russia warned Kosovo's leaders that if they declare independence the territory will never become a member of the United Nations or other international political institutions.

The United States and Britain countered on Wednesday by reaffirming their support for Kosovo's drive for independence from Serbia, a close ally of Russia.

The future status of Kosovo, a province of Serbia which has been run by the UN and NATO since 1999, was not on the Security Council's official agenda on Wednesday. The council was supposed to discuss a report on the UN Mission in Kosovo, but instead the two sides replayed their debate last month on independence vs autonomy for the Serb province, and neither side budged.

With Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders expected to declare independence in late February or early March, the stakes were high and the key players sent top leaders to make their case again to the UN's most powerful body, Serbian President Boris Tadic and Kosovo's newly elected Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

Tadic echoed Russia's call for further negotiations, saying a solution that would provide self-government guaranteeing all rights to the Kosovo Albanians "is possible and attainable." He stressed that Serbia is now a peaceful democracy and there is no reason it should be "unjustly punished again" because of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists a decade ago that led to the 1999 NATO bombing campaign.