Russia Will Veto Kosovo Solution Unless Acceptable for Both Sides.

Russia could use its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block a solution for Kosovo's status if both sides are not in agreement, Russia's ambassador to Serbia said Monday, according to a news report.

Russia would veto any solution for the contested province that is not agreed upon by both Serbia and the province's separatist ethnic Albanians, Aleksander Alexeyev said, according to B92 Radio and Television.

"In case the status solution is not acceptable to both sides - both Belgrade and Pristina - the Russian side will use its veto power," Alekseyev was quoted as saying.

There was no immediate confirmation of the comments by the Russian Embassy in Belgrade. Alexeyev spoke in Russian with a Serbian translation by B92, The Associated Press reports.

Kosovo is formally part of Serbia, but its majority ethnic Albanians overwhelmingly support independence for the province - the demand that Serbia has vowed never to accept.

International talks aimed at defining a solution for Kosovo started early this year under U.N. mediation, but so far have produced no result because the two sides remain entrenched in their positions.

The Kosovo issue is believed to be the last potential flashpoint in the Balkans.

Following lack of progress in the talks, U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari has started working on a proposal for the province. The draft solution is expected to be presented to major world powers of the so-called Contact Group, and the two sides in the talks early next year.

The future solution also needs approval at the U.N. Security Council - where Russia has veto power - before it can take effect.

Serbian officials repeatedly have said they count on Russia's veto in the Security Council to prevent Kosovo independence, but Alexeyev comments to B92 mark the first time a Russian official confirmed such a possibility. There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

Russia in the past has urged both sides to find a negotiated settlement and warned against one-sided solutions. Moscow fears that Kosovo independence could set a precedent for Russian-backed separatist regions in the former Soviet Union.

Kosovo became an international protectorate in 1999, after NATO intervened in the province to stop a Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.

Russia is considered to be a traditional Serbian ally. Both countries share strong cultural, historic and religious ties.

[Source: MosNews, Moscow, 05Dec06]

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