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Kosovo, int'l officials reach no agreement on Serbian election
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09:02, April 15, 2008

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Kosovo and international officials discussed on Monday the sensitive issue of whether to allow upcoming Serbian May elections in Kosovo, but made no agreement.

Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci are against any Serbian elections in Kosovo following its independence in February, but the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) chief Joachim Rucker and EU representative Pieter Feith still did not have a clear position.

"We encourage (Kosovo) Serb citizens to be directly involved inour institutions," Sejdiu said, adding that the decision on eventual Serbian elections on Kosovo will be taken in close coordination with international institutions, especially with UNMIK.

Thaci greeted Washington position against Serbian elections in Kosovo, but said that local and international institutions would have a unique and quick answer to this issue.

According to a Serbian government gazette published Monday, Serbia plans to organize local elections in 16 Kosovo municipalities, including the capital Pristina, next month in defiance of the UNMIK's mandate.

By holding the elections in the ethnic Albanian-dominated province, "we will clearly say that Kosovo is a part of Serbia," Serbia Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told B92 television in Belgrade.

In the past, UNMIK has allowed Kosovo Serbs to vote in Serbia's parliamentary and presidential elections but local elections are seen as undermining international authorities because they deal directly with Kosovo's internal municipal arrangements.

UNMIK officials have told Serbia that only the United Nations has the authority to organize local elections in Kosovo, which hasbeen under UNMIK administration since 1999 when NATO bombing stopped Serbia's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Serbian political parties are holding their election campaigns in Serb-dominated areas in Kosovo, with radicals starting their campaign in the Serb enclave of Gracanica near Pristina.

Serbia, which considers Kosovo the historic cradle of its nation and religion, has rejected Kosovo's self-proclaimed independence on Feb. 17, although its independence has been recognized by 36 countries, mainly the United States and EU states.


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