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Last Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006, 17:02 GMT
UN delays report on Kosovo future
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A settlement for Kosovo's future remains elusive
The UN has postponed a key report on the future status of Kosovo until after Serbia's 21 January election.

UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari announced the decision after a Vienna meeting of the international grouping negotiating Kosovo's future status.

The Contact Group had earlier pledged a decision on Kosovo by the end of 2006.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants independence from Serbia. But diplomats say the UN wants to avoid boosting support for Serbian ultra-nationalists.

The ultra-nationalist Radical Party dominates the Serbian parliament and is fiercely opposed to independence for Kosovo.

UN special envoy and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Ahtisaari: Struggling to find a formula for Kosovo
"I have decided to present my proposal for the settlement of Kosovo status to the parties without delay after the parliamentary elections in Serbia," Mr Ahtisaari said on Friday.

Earlier on Friday the Serbian President, Boris Tadic, called legislative elections for 21 January.

Mr Ahtisaari said he had decided on the delay "in light of the announcement by President Tadic... and after consulting with the Contact Group".

Serbian voters have already approved a new constitution asserting that Kosovo is an integral part of the country.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica reiterated that stance, responding to Mr Ahtisaari's statement. Kosovo "is and forever will be an inalienable part of Serbia," Mr Kostunica said.

Foreign intervention

Kosovo has been under UN control since 1999 - the year that a Nato bombing campaign forced Serbia to pull its forces out of the province.

Nato's action was prompted by Belgrade's harsh crackdown on ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo. Serb violence against civilians triggered a huge exodus of ethnic Albanians to neighbouring countries.

Serbia became an independent country earlier this year when its union with neighbouring Montenegro was formally dissolved.

The Contact Group on Kosovo is made up of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the US.

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu voiced "deep regret" over the UN's delay, but said the ethnic Albanian leadership was confident that Kosovo would achieve independence.

"We're particularly disturbed that this delay is linked to the parliamentary elections in Serbia," he said, quoted by the Associated Press.

The International Crisis Group, a conflict prevention think-tank, warned that the Kosovo final status process "could break down if the decision is pushed much into 2007".

It said any additional delay "would open a new destabilising chapter" and "the longer the Kosovo Albanians are forced to wait, the greater the chance they will discredit themselves with unilateral independence moves or riots".

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