European Union countries and Kosovo have welcomed a move by Serbia to soften a draft UN resolution on the future of its former province.
Belgrade, which plans to submit the draft resolution to the UN General Assembly later today, said on September 8 it would drop calls for the condemnation of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence.
However Serbia has not indicated whether it will drop its opposition to Kosovo's recognition by the United Nations.
"Serbia will, of course, continue its policy, which includes at the same time defending our national interests," Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said today, "but Serbia also must take into consideration the views of all our friends, and also those who have different views, and whose position is very important in the international community."
In a statement, Serbian President Boris Tadic made Belgrade's first call for a new EU-mediated "dialogue" with ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosovo over the future of the territory.
In a statement today, Kosovo's government also welcomed the draft resolution, saying it was "in full accordance with the reality created in Kosovo."
Serbian President Boris Tadic has described the draft as a "compromise" by Serbia with the EU, which Serbia hopes to join in the future.
The EU's foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said in a statement that she "warmly" welcomed the Serbian announcement.
The Serbian decision is expected to move the Kosovo debate out of the United Nations, where major power Russia backed Serbia's opposition to Kosovo independence, to the EU, where most member nations have already recognized Kosovo's independence.
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The announcement has been welcomed by Serbian liberal politicians who support closer ties to the EU, but condemned as treacherous by opposition hard-liners who view Serbian control over Kosovo as nonnegotiable.
The Serbian announcement follows the nonbinding July decision by the International Court Of Justice that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence did not violate international law.
Seventy countries, including the United States and most EU states, have so far recognized Kosovo's independence.
Kosovo Serb Leaders Fault Serbia On UN Resolution
Ethnic Serb leaders in riven northern Kosovo are expressing feelings of betrayal by Belgrade after Serbia supported a new UN resolution on Kosovo, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.
Some suggest the development will result in greater pressure on Russia to take a more aggressive diplomatic line on the question of Kosovo's two-year-old declaration of independence.
Milan Ivanovic, a Kosovar Serb leader from the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, called the resolution to open dialogue "another defeat for the current Serbian regime regarding Kosovo."
"It is just a continuation of losses that have happened over the last two years," Ivanovic said.
Serbia has bitterly opposed international recognition of the UN-administered region's unilateral declaration of sovereignty in February 2008.
Another Kosovar Serb leader, Momir Kasalovic, warned that ethnic Serbs will appeal for help from Russia as a result of disappointment with Belgrade. He said they will ask Moscow to open an office in northern Kosovo that would be part of Russia's diplomatic mission to Serbia.
Serbia lost de facto control over Kosovo in 1999 when NATO waged a bombing campaign to halt an armed conflict between Serbia and the territory's ethnic Albanian majority.
The United Nations maintains a "status-neutral mission" in Kosovo.
Disappointment with Belgrade in the wake of this week's resolution was also expressed by some ordinary Kosovar Serbs in Mitrovica.
"I feel ashamed and at the same time I am disappointed with the government of Serbia, which obeyed the United States and other Western countries [over Kosovo and the resolution]," said Radivoje Negojevic. "Serbia turned its back on Russia and other allies."
The United States and around 70 other countries recognize Kosovo's independence.
The resolution passed by the UN General Assembly on September 9 acknowledges the advisory opinion of the UN's International Court of Justice on Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, which said that no international laws were broken when Kosovo declared its sovereignty.
The resolution also welcomes the European Union as the main body to facilitate dialogue between officials from Kosovo and Serbia, which along with Russia and the majority of the UN's 192-nation assembly does not recognize Kosovo's independence.
Serbia originally submitted a different resolution that took a tougher line on Kosovo. But after pressure from several EU countries, especially Germany and Great Britain, Serbian President Boris Tadic agreed on new wording.
Kosovo's Serbs -- who live almost exclusively in the northern part of Kosovo -- have resisted efforts by Pristina and the international community to integrate into Kosovar institutions. Parallel Serbian structures in the north are the main institutions in that part of Kosovo, even though those structures are considered illegal by the Kosovar government.
The situation is somewhat different with Kosovar Serbs living south of the Ibar River. Many participated in last year's local elections and are active in the decentralization process as laid out by the UN's so-called Ahtisaari Plan.
Ethnic Serbs represent between 4 and 7 percent of Kosovo's 1.9 million people.
Compiled from agency reports