"Nato will respond resolutely to any attempts to disrupt the safety and security of any of the people of Kosovo," Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato's secretary-general said as he opened a meeting of the alliance.
 
Dead end
 
The meeting sent a veiled message to Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian majority not to make a sudden declaration of independence after an expected acknowledgment by mediators from Russia, Europe and the United States that efforts to find a negotiated settlement have reached a dead end.
 
Instead of declaring unilateral independence, Nato spokesman James Appathurai urged a "managed and controlled" transition to decide the final status of the breakaway province.
 
Four months of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina have failed to bring about a solution on the breakaway province.
 
This has prompted Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority to say they will declare independence in early 2008.
 
The United States and leading European allies are hoping to revive a plan - rejected by Serbia and its ally Russian - for a gradual move towards independence.
 
Russia has questioned whether the UN resolution would remain legally viable if Kosovo is to officially breakaway from Serbia.
 
Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Greece fear that Kosovon independence without Belgrade's agreement could encourage other separatist movements in the region.