The United Nations Security Council planned a meeting Wednesday to review the UN's mission in Kosovo that could degenerate into a debate on the disputed future of the breakaway Serb province.
Serb President Boris Tadic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci were both to attend the meeting after specifically requesting to be present.
But only the Serb president will be allowed to speak during the public debate as the representative of a recognized government. Thaci can address the 15-nation council in a second, closed-door session of the meeting, diplomats said Tuesday.
The council has met with both leaders in the past year, when discussion has focused specifically on whether to grant independence to Kosovo, which is mostly inhabited by Albanian ethnics. Backed by Russia, Serbia is strongly opposed to giving the territory full independence.
The council meeting Wednesday was meant to review the work of the UN interim mission in Kosovo, which along with NATO and the European Union has been engaged in training the local police force and other administrative tasks.
But Tadic in a letter to the council on Tuesday demanded the right to "participate in the discussion" of the UN's report on the Kosovo mission. He also asked the council not to allow representatives from Kosovo to take part as officials of the territory, but as members of the UN mission in Kosovo.
Thaci, prime minister of the ethnic Albanian-led Kosovo government, said he wanted to present "the views of the people of Kosovo."
"We consider that it is critically important that I be given the opportunity to present the position of the Institution of Kosovo, which I lead, especially following our serious engagement and involvement in the negotiation," Thaci said in the letter to the council president, Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi of Libya.
The Kosovo issue has split the council into two camps, with the European members and the United States favouring independence for Kosovo while Russia and China are opposed. The council last met in December in an attempt to overcome its differences, but gave up on the ground that the gap was irreconcilable.
Efforts by Britain, France and Germany - the EU troika - Russia and the United States have so far failed to break the impasse between Serb and Kosovo leaders. ( Dpa )