Albanian negotiators to meet Kosovo's top U.N. official

Ethnic Albanian negotiators will meet Kosovo's top U.N. official Tuesday in preparations for the next round of talks with Serbian officials to resolve the future status of the disputed province.

Soren Jessen-Petersen, the U.N. official in charge of running Kosovo, will meet the ethnic Albanian negotiating team, led by Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu, just days after status talks held in the Austrian capital, Vienna, focused on local government reform.

The U.N.-sponsored process, led by the former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, is aimed at finding a lasting solution to one of the most intractable issues left since the disintegration of Yugoslavia, whether Kosovo becomes independent or not.

Ethnic Albanians, who comprise about 90 percent of the province's population of 2 million, insist on full independence. But Serbia, and Kosovo's Serb minority, insist Belgrade must retain some control over the province.

The second round of talks ended last week without any clear agreement, but the two sides pledged to meet again on April 3 to discuss reforms meant to give Serbs a more of a say in areas where they live.

The recent discussions dealt with details of the reform such as the financing of municipalities and the links between Kosovo's beleaguered Serb minority and Belgrade. U.N. mediators noted some progress, reports the AP.

I.L.