Russian foreign minister visiting Serbia-Montenegro, Kosovo

Russia's foreign minister was arriving Sunday for a two-day visit to Serbia-Montenegro and Kosovo for talks on the future status of the ethnically divided province, the Foreign Ministry in Belgrade said.

During the visit, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov planned to meet top officials in Belgrade and Podgorica _ the capitals of Serbia and Montenegro _ as well as ethnic Albanian leaders in Pristina, Kosovo's provincial capital.

Kosovo is still formally part of the two-member union that succeeded Yugoslavia, but has been run by the United Nations and NATO since a 1999 Alliance bombing campaign halted ex-President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Belgrade has had no authority over Kosovo for more than six years, but wants to keep at least formal control over it as most Serbs consider Kosovo the cradle of their history and culture.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership has insisted on nothing less than full independence.

The U.N. Security Council has approved the start of talks later this month to determine the final status of the majority ethnic Albanian province.

Russia maintains a significant role both in the Security Council and in the so-called Kosovo Contact Group, a collection of U.S. and European diplomats advising on how to resolve Kosovo's status. The group is working in cooperation with former Finnish President Martii Attishari, to be the chief U.N. envoy overseeing the Kosovo status talks.

Belgrade, with historical Slavic ties to Russia, may look to Moscow for support in contending that an independent Kosovo would constitute unlawful secession.

Lavrov's official meetings in Belgrade are scheduled for Monday, when he will also address media together with Serbia-Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, AP reported. V.A.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team