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Getting to 'yes' in Kosovo talks

Plan tries to straddle divergent endgames of Serbs, Albanians. Talksmay go into next week.

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For the United States and its partners, keeping the crisis in Serbia's Kosovo province from bursting into a full-blown war that could destabilize the region requires a deft balancing act that denies both sides their main aims.

As they see it, that means ending Serbia's rule of Kosovo but denying independence to its long-abused ethnic Albanian majority, while trying to ensure normal lives for people divided by different languages, cultures, religions, and a history of hate.

That intricate formula underpins a proposed three-year interim plan that Serbian and ethnic Albanian leaders, sequestered in a 14th-century palace, are being pressed to accept in talks that entered a fifth day Wednesday.

"Citizens in Kosovo shall have the right to democratic self-government," says the draft peace accord, a copy of which was obtained by the Monitor. "The right of democratic self-government shall include the right to participate in free and fair elections."

In addition to the draft accord to end battles between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian rebels, the sides are reviewing a proposed constitution and annexes that set election rules and create a human rights ombudsman. The documents represent months of tough work by US Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill and Wolfgang Petritsch, the Austrian envoy to Belgrade.

More than 2,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanian civilians, have been killed following a brutal police crackdown on the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) last February by President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, of which Serbia is a republic. The crackdown turned what was a decade-long peaceful movement by Kosovo's 2 million ethnic Albanians against Serbian repression into an uprising for independence led by the KLA.


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