UNITED NATIONS, 19 December 2007 — Serbia and Kosovo’s Albanian separatist leaders huddle with the UN Security Council Wednesday to make their rival cases on the breakaway Serbian province’s future status, after their recent failure to reach a compromise.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Monday he would urge the 15 council members to call for more talks between the parties to reach a compromise that would exclude Kosovo’s independence.

Pushing Kosovo’s independence claim before the council will be prime Minister-designate Hashim Thaci and President Fatmir Sejdiu.

Also due to take part in the meeting will be UN chief Ban Ki-moon on his return from Algeria where he Tuesday toured the ruins of UN agency offices destroyed last week in car bombings that killed at least 41 people, including 17 UN staff.

UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said Ban would listen to the different views before making any comment on the issue.

The council meeting comes just days after four months of last-ditch talks between Belgrade and Kosovo’s Albanian separatists broke down over the issue of sovereignty for the UN-ruled breakaway Serbian province.

“I don’t think the Security Council … is going to be able to reach agreement on a way forward, in which case other organizations will have to take their responsibilities,” said a Western ambassador speaking on condition of anonymity last week.

Serbia, backed by its ally Moscow, is willing to offer Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority broad autonomy but not independence, as it views the breakaway province as its historic heartland.

Leaders of Kosovo’s 1.8 million ethnic Albanians however insist they will make a unilateral declaration of independence in “coordination” with Washington and most European Union (EU) members within weeks, after 18 months of failed talks with Serbia.

Russia, a veto-wielding Security Council member, however warned Monday that the “indulgence” of some in allowing Kosovo to move towards independence could have “serious negative consequences” for regional stability.

Last Friday, EU leaders deployed around 1,800 police and prosecutors to Kosovo in an action that had been planned under a UN proposal to grant Kosovo “supervised independence.”

EU leaders also offered Serbia “accelerated” entry to the European Union.

But Russia insisted Monday that the EU police mission would be illegal without UN approval.

A UN mission was deployed in Kosovo eight years ago under Security Council Resolution 1244, after NATO bombing ousted Serbian forces waging a crackdown on Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority.

Source: AFP