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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2007, 22:48 GMT
Allies try to plot Kosovo future
By Jonathon Marcus
Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News

Kosovar Serbs protest against EU plans to deploy police and prosecutors to Kosovo, 18 December 2007
There is uncertainty over how Kosovar Serbs will react

In the wake of the UN Security Council's inconclusive discussion of the political future of Kosovo, the stage is set for the province's majority Albanian community to go ahead with its proposed declaration of independence from Serbia.

This could have serious regional and international implications.

The goal now of the US and its key European allies is that Kosovo's independence goes ahead in as calm and predictable manner as possible.

The positions in this UN debate were predictable.

The US and its key European allies believe that the status quo in Kosovo cannot continue and that every diplomatic avenue has been explored in the quest to find an arrangement acceptable to the Kosovar Albanians and the Serbian authorities alike.

Independence expected

This is why they have rejected Russia's insistence that more time should be given for talks.

Kosovo map

The argument is that expectations of independence have been raised.

Further negotiations will prove futile.

And if a lid is to be kept on the region then independence needs to go ahead in an orderly manner.

Nato has already agreed to maintain its forces in Kosovo.

The EU has agreed to take on many of the key roles currently performed by the UN, notably the oversight of police and judicial matters in the province.

Now details have to be discussed as to how this project will be taken forward.

Uncertain future

Over the next few weeks the US and its European allies will try to choreograph a process that will lead to Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.

Kosovar Albanian at an independence rally, 10 December 2007
Kosovar Albanians have called for immediate independence

The view in London is that this might best happen in early February 2008, once the Serbian presidential election is out of the way.

All sorts of uncertainties lie ahead.

How will Kosovo's minority Serbian population react? What pressure might Serbia itself seek to apply against Kosovo? And how far will Russia go in opposing US and European plans?

For Russia it is the principle of Serbia's sovereignty that matters most.

It fears that a dangerous precedent will be set by carving off Kosovo - one that could have implications for the many conflicts around the periphery of Russia itself.

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