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Serbia back on Kosovo offensive, with Russian help

Serbia was back on the offensive over Kosovo's independence on Sunday, blaming the United States for crisis in the Balkans while its ally Russia accused the Americans of destroying "world order".

Three days after young rioters in Belgrade embarrassed the country by attacking Western embassies and looting shops, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said it is Washington that is threatening peace and stability.

In a strongly worded statement from Moscow, Russia also accused Washington of trampling on international law.

"The United States must annul the decision to recognize a false state on the territory of Serbia," Kostunica said. "It must reaffirm U.N. Security Council resolution 1244, which guarantees Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"Continuation of the policy of force will deepen the crisis that undermines the foundations of world order and threatens peace and stability in the Balkans," he said.

Serbia has expressed official regret for riots last Thursday during which the U.S. embassy was attacked and set on fire. The mission sent dependents and support staff to Croatia for safety.

This week, Serbia is getting high-level support from Moscow. Kostunica is due to host Russian President Vladimir Putin's likely successor, Dmitry Medvedev, on Monday.

The Russian foreign ministry, in a statement, again demanded a "compromise" on Kosovo, which diplomats believe is headed for partition, although Serbia has never formally proposed it.

"Do support for the Kosovo Albanian side alone, contempt for law for the sake of so-called 'political expediency', and indifference to the fate of a hundred thousand Serbs who... are effectively being driven into a ghetto not amount to flagrant cynicism?" it said.

"Is it not cynical that the Serb people is being openly humiliated while Belgrade is being promised a Euro-Atlantic future if it agrees to the carve-up of Serbia?"

The foreign ministry statement recalled that Russia had a peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo from 1999 to 2004, under the aegis of the NATO-led KFOR force which has 17,000 troops there.

"It was withdrawn due to our fundamental disagreement with bias favouring one side in Kosovo matters..." the ministry said.

Instead of supporting Kosovo Albanian independence and other actions "destroying world order", there must be a "a decision based on law and compromise between Belgrade and Pristina", the ministry statement said.

It did not say what compromise Russia has in mind. But on the ground in Kosovo, ethnic Serbs in the north are making steady efforts to resist the authority of the new state and its Western backers, with the support of Serbia and Russia.

Russia has not yet openly proposed a return of Russian troops to Kosovo. But is U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin has warned that it will not stand by and allow Kosovo Serbs to be forced to accept the rule of the new republic.

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