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US accused ofpreventing Kosovo compromise by Serbia's PM

The United States is seeking to prevent a possible Serb-Albanian compromise on Kosovo by backing the province's independence, Serbia’s Premier said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in a statement that the United States wants "at any price to prevent the Kosovo Albanians from accepting a compromise solution for the province."

Kosovo is formally a province in Serbia, but it has been ruled by a U.N. administration since a 1999 war, when NATO bombed Serbia to stop an onslaught against the ethnic Albanian separatists.

Kosovo's future status is currently being negotiated at internationally-brokered talks which have been deadlocked as Kosovo Albanians insist on becoming an independent state and Serbia rejects the idea.

The United States has said that monitored independence, as proposed in a U.N. plan, was the best solution for Kosovo and the Balkans. This has angered Serbia which accused Washington of being anti-Serb.

Kostunica said Serbia will never accept Kosovo's independence and allow the province to become U.S. and NATO's "war prey" after they "brutally and illegally" bombed Serbia to try to snatch its territory.

Also Tuesday, an international think-tank warned in a report that the Kosovo crisis could stir violence in volatile Albanian-dominated southern Serbia, bordering the province.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group said that although the region has been mostly quiet, any violence in Kosovo, or the province's partition could lead to incidents and even ethnic cleansing.

"Grievances abound on both sides," said James Lyon, the group's senior Balkans adviser. "Albanians feel peace has not ended tensions with Serb security forces and wish to join the valley to Kosovo, while Serbs feel the Albanians are a disloyal, irredentist minority."

Serbia's Albanian-dominated south was the scene of a rebellion in 2000-2001, which ended in an internationally mediated peace agreement. But the area is considered highly volatile as tensions still linger.

The International Crisis Group said the international community must pressure Belgrade and local ethnic Albanian leaders to prevent any incidents and save the "hard-won" peace.

The group said both sides could use any violence in Kosovo for their own goals in the region. "Albanians in the hope of uniting it with Kosovo, and Serbs in the hope of using the cover of violence next door to ethnically cleanse the area," it said.

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