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Kosovo parliament adopts constitution
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21:16, April 09, 2008

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Kosovo's parliament adopted a draft constitution on Wednesday, which will come into force in mid-June when the U.N. mission in Kosovo is expected to complete a handover of powers to the newly self-styled country and its EU supervisors.

The 107 lawmakers taking part in the extraordinary session unanimously backed the document by acclamation, nearly two months after Kosovo Albanian majority unilaterally declared independence from Serbia with Western backing on Feb. 17.

The constitution contains 40 chapters and 160 articles and defines Kosovo as "a parliamentary republic," with Albanian and Serbian as official languages.

Kosovo expresses its determination "to build a future ... as a free, democratic and peace-loving country that will be a homeland to all of its citizens," the text reads.

The constitution stipulates the establishment of a Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, security force, constitutional court and intelligence agency. It also includes provisions for the protection of the Serb minority, under the U.N. plan for "supervised independence" that was rejected by Serbia and Russia but backed by Kosovo Albanians and the major Western powers.

The constitution, which was approved by the EU special representative Pieter Feith on April 2, was signed by Kosovo leaders on April 7.

Kosovo, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians, had been run by the U.N. mission since 1999, when NATO bombing forced the Serbian government to end its crackdown against pro-independent Albanian guerrillas and pull its troops out of Kosovo.

The constitution will come into force on June 15, when the U.N. mission is due to hand over its remaining powers to Kosovo's local authorities and the new EU-led police and supervisory mission.

The U.N. mission said earlier that it is awaiting instructions from headquarters in New York about how to carry out the transition, but it is certain to remain in northern Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs inhabit in large numbers, for some time under current U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244.

Some 120,000 Serbs remaining in Kosovo have rejected Kosovo's independence and the deployment of the "illegal" EU mission without the U.N. authorization.

Serbia, which has rejected Kosovo's independence and the EU mission, has pledged support for Serbs' survival in Kosovo and vowed to continue the diplomatic struggle to keep Kosovo inside Serbia.

Kosovo has been recognized by more than 30 countries, including the United States and most of the 27 EU member states.

Source: Xinhua

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