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Albanian leaders join US, EU, Russian envoys at London talks

The U.S., European Union, Russian envoys and Albanian leaders of Kosovo are holding talks on the future of the disputed province.

Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu has said he will seek an explanation from the Contact Group troika over comments made by the European Union's representative, which appeared to indicate independence for the province is not on offer.

"I would leave open independence. I would rather talk about a strong supervised status," German negotiator Wolfgang Ischinger told The Independent newspaper on Tuesday.

The troika, as the group of envoys is known, opened talks on Tuesday, meeting first with representatives from Belgrade. It is due to report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by Dec. 10.

Serbia and Russia strongly oppose Kosovo's demand for full independence.

"The issue of Kosovo is on the agenda, Kosovo's independence is on the agenda (and) our determination to achieving it has no alternative," Sejdiu said.

After meeting with Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic called on all parties to tread carefully.

"Unilateral moves regarding Kosovo would be very dangerous and have dramatic consequences to peace and stability in the Balkans," he said, according to the Belgrade-based Tanjug news agency.

The Serbian and ethnic Albania representatives are to meet face-to-face for the first time in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 28.

Serbian negotiators said they proposed ideas for upcoming direct talks with the Albanian side during their session on Tuesday. But government minister Slobodan Samardzic said he expected no spectacular results from the New York meeting, which he said will present a "manifestation of good will by the two sides."

Samardzic said upcoming weeks will show whether "the Albanian side has any intention to negotiate at all ... and whether we have a negotiating process of we are wasting time."

Jeremic said the Serb delegation reached a level of understanding with the envoys at the Tuesday meeting.

"Serbia will be a constructive partner in the negotiations so that we can reach a solution that is acceptable to both sides," he said.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, warned the West Tuesday against rushing a decision on Kosovo's independence, saying there must be no artificial deadlines.

Kosovo remains formally part of Serbia, but the province has been run by the United Nations and NATO since 1999, when NATO bombed Serbia to stop a military campaign against ethnic Albanian separatists.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people, insist on independence. But Serbia, backed by Russia, refuses to let go of its historical heartland.

Belgrade and Moscow have rejected a Western-backed plan granting internationally supervised independence to Kosovo. The U.S. statement said that plan represented the best option if no other compromise was agreed by December.

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