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New Negotiations on Kosovo Under Way, Though Accord Seems Unlikely

The political deadlock over Kosovo’s future is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon despite the start of new negotiations on the province this week, according to two leading politicians involved in the talks.

Agim Ceku, Kosovo’s prime minister, and Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s foreign minister, leading members of the opposing delegations in the talks that begin Wednesday in Vienna, said in recent days that they doubted that a compromise could be reached over the disputed region during the discussions.

The new round of talks follows months of deliberations between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians, who make up the province’s majority and seek independence, and Serbia, which considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory. Western governments, Russia and the United Nations have also been involved, and the coming negotiations are seen by many diplomats as a last chance to reach a negotiated settlement, thereby sparing the international community the task of imposing one.

Kazakhstan Suspends Permits For Oil Exploration

The government of Kazakhstan suspended environmental permits on Monday for a consortium of foreign energy companies developing a potentially huge oil field in the Caspian Sea, threatening to slow development of the largest oil find in the world since the discovery of Prudhoe Bay in Alaska three decades ago.

The suspension came as Kazakh officials and the consortium, led by the Italian oil company Eni, were negotiating new terms for a $20 billion development contract for the Kashagan field, leading to speculation that the move was an effort to press the companies into ceding a larger share of future profits to the Kazakh government.

The stakes are high because of the field’s vast reserves. The Kashagan field is a centerpiece of Western and Japanese efforts to diversify oil supplies away from the Middle East to other regions like the Caspian Sea basin.

The suspension of the environmental permits, announced Monday, was not considered to be a significant threat to the project in the long term.

Cabinet Minister Resigns in Protest Of Musharraf’s Re-Election

A Cabinet minister resigned from the Pakistani government Monday to protest President Pervez Musharraf’s plans to run for re-election while remaining head of the army.

In the first sign of Cabinet-level trouble for the president, Ishaq Khan Khakwani, the state minister for information technology and telecommunication, said in his resignation letter that as a member of Parliament, he would still support Musharraf’s re-election, but only if he were to relinquish the post of chief of army staff.

Khakwani said he made the decision even before meeting with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who expressed deep concern about Khakwani’s recent public criticism of the president’s intention to retain both posts.

Khakwani said he was not asked to resign. “I thought before I am told to restrain myself, I should resign,” he said in an interview. Khakwani had been making statements that were often at odds with the ruling party’s position. He had not supported the president’s suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Recently, he expressed concerns about Musharraf’s plans to seek re-election while still in uniform.