NATO urges Kosovo's Balkan neighbors to support Ahtisaari status proposals, timeline

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged Kosovo's Balkan neighbors to back the proposals by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari on the future of Serbia's breakaway province which are expected to be presented in the region this week.

"NATO allies support the proposals which President Ahtisaari is going to present to the parties on Feb. 2," de Hoop Scheffer said. "We support his timelines and I think it is important that all countries in the region do the same thing."

Ahtisaari's plan is expected to lead to a conditional, internationally supervised independence for Kosovo.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, de Hoop Scheffer warned the Albanian-speaking majority and the Serb minority against turning to violence, but said NATO's 16,000-strong peacekeeping force stood ready to face any renewed unrest in Kosovo.

"KFOR is prepared for all eventualities, let nobody in Kosovo have any illusions that they should test KFOR," de Hoop Scheffer said. "That goes for the majority and the minority."

Crvenkovski said Macedonia would support a permanent solution guaranteeing stability in the region, reports AP.

Last week, Crvenkovski warned about the risks of renewed unrest in Kosovo. Macedonia wants a border dispute with Kosovo to be settled before any decision on Kosovo's final status. Kosovo has claimed more than 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres) of land in Macedonia since a 2001 border agreement between Macedonia and Serbia.

Macedonia is expected to be invited to join NATO in 2008.

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