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Russia: U.N. plan for Kosovo independence 'will not pass'

Moscow gave the strongest indication that it might veto the proposal of eventual independence of Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo. A senor Russian diplomat said that this U.N. plan will not pass, local news agencies reported.

The proposal, drawn up by U.N. envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari, foresees Kosovo being granted internationally supervised independence. It needs final approval from the U.N. Security Council - where Russia holds veto power. While Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority generally supports the plan, Belgrade has rejected it and wants to maintain some control over its southern province.

"We have said that we will not support a decision that will not be supported by both sides in the U.N. Security Council: a decision based on proposals by M. Ahtisaari will not pass," Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Asked whether Russia could veto the proposal, Titov said: "The threat of using a veto must stimulate the sides to come up with mutually accepted compromises," the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Kosovo, an impoverished province of two million people - 90 percent of them ethnic Albanians - has been under U.N. and NATO control since a brief NATO aerial war in 1999 drove Serb forces out of the region after they cracked down on separatist ethnic Albanian rebels.

Russia has staunchly opposed the U.N. plan, saying it would set a dangerous precedent for separatists elsewhere by dismembering a sovereign U.N. member against its government's will.

Titov said that, if violence broke out in Kosovo, Russia would ask that discussions on the province's status be halted.

"If violence in Kosovo escalates, we will immediately demand a consideration of whether it makes sense to continue the political process, taking into account the immaturity of the situation in the province," Titov was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.

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