However, Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia's prime minsiter, said that he would urge the 15 council members to call for more talks between the parties to reach a compromise that would exclude Kosovo's independence.

During the negotiations which ended in November, Belgrade offered Kosovo, which has been administered by the UN for eight years, broad autonomy.

Acceptable solution

Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, is supporting Serbia's call for further talks with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders.

Al Jazeera in Kosovo


Kosovo's divided city

Roma refugees return to roots

War of words in Serbia's 'Jerusalem'

Kosovo's political football

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, has appealed to the international community to "encourage them to reach a mutually acceptable solution to this problem".

And Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, has accused the West of forcing Kosovo into an "uncompromising position".

"This in effect is blocking negotiations," he said.

But the US, Britain and France say that talks have been exhausted and it is time to resolve the province's future status.

John Sawers, Britain's ambassador to the UN, said before the meeting that he did not expect the council to find common ground given the deep divisions.

Phased recognition

On Friday, EU leaders rejected immediate unilateral recognition of an independent Kosovo but agreed to try to co-ordinate a phased-in recognition of the state's independence.

Thaci has said that any declaration of independence will be co-ordinated with US and EU partners.

The Security Council meeting comes the day after several thousand people protested against Kosovan independence in the predominantly-Serb north of the divided town of Mitrovica.
  
"Kosovo, Soul of Serbia," said one of the banners waved by the protesters. Another bearing a picture of Vladimir Putin, Russian president, declared" "SOS, Save Our Souls."