updated 3/10/2007 11:49:05 AM ET 2007-03-10T16:49:05

Yearlong talks on the future status of Kosovo ended Saturday in deadlock, reflecting bitter divisions between Serbia’s government and the disputed province’s independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

“I regret to say that at the end of the day, there was no will on the part of the parties to move away from their positions,” U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari said. He said his proposal granting Kosovo supervised statehood would be delivered by the end of the month to the U.N. Security Council, which will have the final say.

Serbian President Boris Tadic decried the plan as “unacceptable” and “unbearable,” and the country’s nationalist prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, said it violated international law.

“There is no solution, no compromise,” Kostunica said, warning that the U.N. blueprint would set a dangerous precedent for other independence-minded regions and “have a great impact on many parts of the world.”

But Kosovo’s president, Fatmir Sejdiu, made it clear that ethnic Albanians saw eventual independence as the only acceptable eventual outcome.

“Independence is the alpha and omega—the beginning and end of our position,” he said, adding that ethnic Albanians look forward to one day “joining the family of free nations.”

‘I wish you could have heard the debate’
Ahtisaari’s plan also could lead to a showdown at the Security Council. Although the United States and the European Union support the plan, it has drawn criticism from Russia, an ally of Serbia that wields veto power at the United Nations.

Despite the obstacles ahead, the former Finnish president said there was no point in extending the negotiations because the rival sides shared “no common ground” on the central question of whether Kosovo should remain part of Serbian territory or be placed on the road to eventual independence.

“I wish you could have heard the debate” over the past few weeks, an exasperated Ahtisaari told reporters at Vienna’s former imperial Hofburg Palace.

The plan envisages that Kosovo—which has been a U.N. protectorate since the end of a 1998-1999 war between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serb forces—be granted the trappings of independence, including its own constitution, army, national anthem and flag.

‘Neither side is enthusiastic’
In exchange, it would give the dwindling Serbian minority broad rights in running their daily affairs and preserving their culture in the province.

Ahtisaari’s deputy, Albert Rohan, conceded that both sides were unhappy: Serbia sees the proposal as a breech of international law, and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians had pressed for full independence.

“Neither side is enthusiastic,” he said.

Kostunica delivered a statement inside the closed-door talks declaring: “Snatching Kosovo from Serbia would represent the most dangerous precedent in the history of the U.N.”

He called on all countries to keep Serbia from losing 15 percent of its territory, which he said “will result in new redrawing of borders and endanger the foundation on which international order is based.” Tadic, meanwhile, warned that putting Kosovo on the road to independence “could lead to long-lasting instability in the region and beyond.”

Western officials fear that impatience is growing among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority, which has pressed for independence since the early 1990s, and that tensions could plunge the turbulent region back into violence.

Kosovo’s Serbian minority has warned that the Serb-dominated north would secede if the province is granted independence. And some ethnic Albanians have already staged bloody street protests, saying the plan offers too many concessions to the Serbs and stops short of granting Kosovo full independence.

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