U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said in Belgrade on Tuesday the United States and other Western countries will later this week finalize another U.N. Security Council resolution allowing an additional 120 days for negotiations between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians over the contested province.
Fried said those negotiations would "one way or the other" lead to Kosovo's independence.
"Serbia firmly rejects the new American draft resolution at the U.N. Security Council because it is a preparation for Kosovo's independence," Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in a strongly-worded statement.
"American officials cannot accept the fact that Kosovo will never be independent," Kostunica said.
He said that if the United States and other countries want to have friendly relations with Serbia, they should respect that "Serbia will never allow a grab of (a) large part of its territory."
"Any country which recognizes that Kosovo is grabbed from Serbia will have to face deterioration of mutual relations," the nationalist premier said.
While Kosovo officially remains a province of Serbia, it has been under U.N. and NATO administration since a 78-day NATO-led air war that halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.
In April, U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari recommended Kosovo be granted internationally supervised independence.
U.N. diplomats said that Western nations are working on a compromise U.N. resolution on Kosovo that would give ethnic Albanians and Serbs four months to reach agreement on the province's future status - but it would not automatically trigger a route to independence if talks fail.
However, Fried said in Belgrade on Tuesday that the U.S. position "is clear: Kosovo will be independent"
He suggested that the U.S. would recognize Kosovo even if Serbia's ally Russia vetoes Kosovo's independence at the Security Council. Russia, a traditional Serb ally, has repeatedly hinted it would veto any U.N. resolution which is unacceptable to Serbia.
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