UNITED NATIONS (The New York Times)–Martti Ahtisaari, the United Nations special envoy for the future status of Kosovo, met with the Security Council behind closed doors on Tuesday to discuss a proposal that would grant Kosovo independence from Serbia under international supervision. Emerging from the consultations, Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland, cautioned that "this process has barely started."I won’t say it’s a marathon," he added, "but it’s at least a 10,000 meter run." The proposal on the table would give Kosovo de facto nationhood, with its own civic institutions, army, constitution and flag. But it also calls for a temporary European Union-led mission to provide protection for the province’s ethnic Serbs, who are the minority among a mostly ethnic Albanian population. A separatist movement in the province fought Serbian security forces in the late 1990s. After intervention by NATO forces, Kosovo has been under United Nations supervision. Serbia continues to strongly oppose Kosovo independence. Ahtisaari’s 61-page proposal must be approved by the Security Council, and the eight-year-old United Nations mission in Kosovo closed down. The United States and the European Union have expressed their support for the Ahtisaari proposals. Although the establishment of an independent Kosovo seems almost a foregone conclusion, the Security Council’s timetable for this final episode in the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia remained far from clear. "The Council will not do it overnight," said Jean-Marc de la Sablire , the French ambassador, before the lengthy afternoon session. "It will probably take some weeks. What is at stake is the stability of Europe and this is the completion of the process of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, so it’s a very specific situation."To keep the status quo is not an option," he added, "it would be even dangerous." Vitaly I. Churkin , the ambassador of Russia, a traditional Serbian ally, has proposed a Security Council mission to the Serbian capital, Belgrade, and to Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, before discussion of a resolution begins. He reiterated the proposal, which seems to be gaining support, on Tuesday. Disrespect towards sovereignty and territorial integrity is a harsh violation of the fundamental principles of the international law, he said. Russia, a veto-bearing Council member, has carefully asserted its opposition to Ahtisaari’s proposal, arguing that a new negotiator should be appointed in the hopes of keeping talks open and satisfying both camps. There is the risk of new violence between Kosovo’s ethnic groups, or directed at the international administration in Kosovo, if the Council drags its feet on a new resolution, according to United Nations analysts. At the same time, a hasty decision, or one made without even tacit Serbian acceptance, could be seen as illegitimate and itself prove destabilizing. By invoking a number of procedural rules, the Council allowed Serbia’s prime minister Vojislav Kostunica, to be present in the early consultations, before Ahtisaari spoke. Kosovo’s president, Fatmir Sejdiu, was also allowed to attend, but his speech was read by a special envoy. After the meeting Kostunica, who has said his government will never recognize an independent Kosovo, spurned Ahtisaari’s proposals. "We need new negotiations and we need a new person to negotiate," he said.