U.N. Security Council meets on Kosovo after Russia calls for emergency session

>UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Russia tried to block Kosovo’s independence during a closed-door emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday, saying it is deeply concerned about the safety of Serbs living in the territory.

The 15-member council is divided on the future of Kosovo. Russia backs its close ally Serbia, while the United States, Britain, France and other European Union members are supporting the Kosovo Albanians.

The council met at the request of Russia, which argues that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia made earlier Sunday violates the council’s 1999 resolution.

The session got off to a rocky start; shortly after it began, the session had to be suspended for a couple hours because of a lack of interpreters.

Russia, France and Croatia led off the talks, according to diplomats at the meeting.

Before the session, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow was “highly concerned” about Sunday’s decision by Kosovo’s parliament in Pristina “to declare unilateral independence of Kosovo.”

He specifically addressed the minority Serbs living in enclaves in Kosovo.

“Our concern is for the safety of the Serbs and other ethnic minorities in Kosovo,” Churkin told reporters. “We’ll strongly warn against any attempts at repressive measures, should Serbs in Kosovo decide not to comply with this unilateral proclamation of independence.”

United States and other Western countries disputed those arguments, saying there was little danger to the Serbs in Kosovo and that the 1999 resolution does not apply to the current situation because its provisions are not meant to be permanent.

Kosovo’s 2 million population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, mainly secular Muslims, who do not want to be part of Serbia, a predominantly Christian Orthodox nation.

Kosovo has been under U.N. and NATO administration since a NATO-led air war halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.