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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad has said the Security Council is in a deadlock over Kosovo's future status, and no longer has any role to play on the issue.

The Security Council met late on Wednesday to review the work of the UN's interim mission in Kosovo, which has been deployed in the region since the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Albanian and Serb forces in 1999, training local police and carrying out administrative tasks.

Khalilzad told reporters after the meeting: "There is no change with regard to the fact that the council is blocked [on Kosovo's status] and there are no signs that a decision may be adopted by the council."

Most Western states back the volatile area's drive for independence, and recently agreed that Kosovo's status would be determined by the European Union and NATO. Russia insists that Belgrade and Pristina continue to seek a compromise.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin reiterated on Wednesday that the future of Kosovo was a Security Council issue and said council members should prepare a roadmap that would provide solutions to overcome the differences in approaches to Kosovo's status.

"We still have a chance," Churkin said. "We are proposing a roadmap so as not to freeze negotiations over Kosovo's status, but to create dynamics that in our view would lead to a negotiated outcome."

He also said that Russia, which has veto power on the Security Council, would block any attempt by an independent Kosovo to become a member of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Kosovo's newly elected Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said Pristina's independence was an accomplished fact and would be declared as soon as the United States and the European Union were ready to recognize it.

"We will take a decision in the nearest future, and we hope that the international community will recognize us very soon," he said after the UN meeting.

Thaci, who was sworn in by parliament last Wednesday, earlier said the Albanian-dominated Serbian province could declare independence in late February or early March.

Serbian President Boris Tadic, who also attended the UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, called upon the council to abide by its own resolutions and the UN Charter. UN Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999, reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to which Serbia is now the recognized successor state, and established that Kosovo was to remain part of Serbia.

"Serbia will never recognize Kosovo's independence and will preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all democratic means, legal arguments and diplomacy," Tadic told the council, adding that "Serbia will not resort to violence and war."

He also said that Serbia, "now a peaceful democracy," should not be "unjustly punished" for crimes committed against ethnic Albanians by former Yugoslav leaders a decade ago.

The foreign ministers of Britain, Germany, Italy and France - members of the Contact Group on Kosovo, which also comprises the United States and Russia, are scheduled to meet in Slovenia on Saturday with the EU's Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and foreign policy chief Javier Solana to discuss a timeframe for a police mission for the province.

Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, Russia's representative on the troika of mediators on Kosovo's status, said on Thursday that EU plans to send a 1,800-strong police force to the breakaway region of Serbia were "illegal."

"The European Union can do whatever it plans to do, but this is absolutely illegal because the status of the region [Kosovo] is determined by UN Resolution 1244," the Russian diplomat said. "These issues can be resolved only by the Security Council, rather than by Pristina and the EU."

He also stressed that Russia was not blocking the Security Council on the Kosovo issue, but simply wanted to help the opposing sides to find a compromise.

"Russia's call for further negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina on the future status of Kosovo based on compromise have been gaining growing support among new Security Council members, which joined the body in January this year," Botsan-Kharchenko said.

The UN Security Council comprises 15 permanent and elected members. Vietnam, Burkina Faso, Libya, Croatia and Costa Rica were elected on October 16, 2007.

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