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VIEWS & ANALYSIS
NATO warns of a war in Kosovo
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 7:31 AM
NEBI QENA

PRISTINA, Serbia-NATO's commander in Kosovo said Tuesday that patience is running out in the volatile province and he warned of further deterioration if international envoys fail to persuade ethnic Albanians and Serbia to agree on its future.

German Lt. Gen. Roland Kather, who commands over 16,000 troops in Kosovo, urged Western and Russian envoys to broker a deal between the independence seeking ethnic-Albanians and Serbia's officials or risk facing a violent backlash if no agreement is reached.

Commander of NATO's troops in Kosovo Lt. Gen. Roland Kather. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu) 

"Patience is not endless," Kather said. "They should come up with a decision as soon as possible."

Last week envoys from United States, the European Union and Russia launched a 120-day effort to end the impasse over Kosovo.

The new effort follows Russia's threat to block a Western-backed plan to grant Kosovo internationally supervised independence in the U.N. Security Council.

The diplomats are to report back to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by Dec. 10.

Kather said the situation was quiet in the province of some two million people but added it was "unpredictable."

"Certainly the situation will deteriorate after those 120 days," Kather said. "We have to do everything possible to keep it under control."

The delay in resolving Kosovo's political status has raised fears of renewed violence as the frustration among the majority ethnic Albanians grows in the absence of a decision over its future, eight years into U.N. and NATO administration.

"My main worry is that following some kind of ... political trouble, there will be some individuals, there will be some extremists, there will be some frustration," Kather said.

"They need a fuse, and then they might come up with some violent actions. That of course, will cause a reaction ... and then suddenly this violence might run out of control," he said.

Both sides in the talks have expressed doubt an agreement will be reached and prospects for compromise are slim. Kosovo's Albanians continue to insist on full independence from Serbia, an outcome Belgrade opposes.

Over the weekend the EU envoy to the talks said that partitioning the province along ethnic lines was an option if ethnic Albanian and Serbian leaders agreed, and threatened to deny the possibility of EU membership if the sides failed to compromise.

The two sides are to hold the next round of talks with international envoys Aug. 30 in Vienna, Austria.

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