Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said during a visit to Cyprus on Sunday: "Artificial deadlines imposed by outsiders will not work, and we believe that in the case of Kosovo these deadlines are not binding."

Earlier he had warned that a unilateral declaration of independence would exacerbate ethnic tensions and possibly trigger renewed violence in the region that has been administered by the UN since the ending of the conflict in 1999.

Security stepped up

Nato has stepped up security in the region ahead of the deadline and, in the north, some Serbs have suggested that a declaration of independence could renew the conflict in Kosovo.

Wolfgang Ischinger, the EU negotiator, will brief European foreign ministers on Monday and urge them to help stabilise the Balkan territory by sending in police and justice officials.

Al Jazeera in Kosovo


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The UN Security Council will discuss the situation on December 19 but with Russia a stauch supporter of Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo there is unlikely to be an agreement over the next steps.

Kosovo's newly elected leaders are expected to move towards a unilateral declaration of independence early next year.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press new agency on Sunday, the province's senior negotiators pledged to refrain from violence and "do the utmost to ensure Kosovo remains calm".

"The people of Kosovo urgently need clarity about their future," the statement said, urging Western leaders to support independence.

However, Lavrov said that such a move would undermine international law and set a dangerous example for separatist movements across the world.

"Such conflicts are under control today mostly because of efficiency of basic norms of international law. It would be simply irresponsible to weaken it by ill-considered action regarding Kosovo," he said.

"A unilateral solution will inevitably create a precedent which will be extrapolated to other similar situations."

Four or five of EU's 27 states, including Cyprus and Greece, are believed to have misgivings about recognising Kosovo's independence fearing that it could encourage ethnic or national groups at home.