09 July 2007

Kosovo Serbs, clerics urge government to dismiss U.N. Kosovo plan, Cabinet convenes

Associated Press, Tuesday, February 13, 2007 2:16 PM


BELGRADE, Serbia-Serbia's government on Tuesday denounced a U.N. plan for Kosovo after Serbs living in the disputed southern province and the influential Serbian Orthodox Church called for its rejection.


The government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica released a "resolution," saying the U.N. proposal on Kosovo's future is "contrary to international law because it ignores sovereignty and the territorial integrity" of Serbia.


The plan, created by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, envisages self-rule for Kosovo, including a flag, anthem, army, constitution and the right to join international organizations. The province's ethnic Albanian majority want to secede from Serbia and have largely welcomed the U.N. proposal.


"Giving Kosovo prerogatives of a sovereign state ... is a dangerous precedent, bearing in mind minority questions and territorial disputes in Europe and worldwide," the Serbian government said in its document, which the parliament is now expected to uphold Wednesday.


Still, the government acknowledged that its representatives will meet with Ahtisaari on Feb. 21 in Vienna, Austria, for a final round of talks about the controversial plan.


The Serbian National Council, which represents some 100,000 Serbs still living in the province, blasted the U.N. proposal as "absolutely unacceptable."


"The (U.N.) plan aims to deprive Serbia of an important piece of its territory," the Council said. If adopted by the U.N. Security Council, the plan "would make survival of Serbs impossible ... and lead to destabilization of the entire region."


Serbia's control over the southern province was suspended in 1999 when NATO bombing halted a Serb crackdown on the ethnic Albanian separatists and turned the province into a protectorate.


Belgrade has offered broad autonomy for Kosovo, but Kosovo Albanians demand complete secession.


Bishop Artemije of the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose diocese covers Kosovo, urged the officials to "remain firm and united in protecting Kosovo."


Following a tour of Western capitals where he sought support for the Serb side in the dispute, the bishop said he "realized in numerous meetings that the international community will accept (Ahtisaari's) proposal only if the Serbian government shows weakness or lack of unity."


Meanwhile, some ethnic Albanians also are unhappy with the U.N. plan. Two people died in violent protests in Kosovo on Saturday when thousands rallied against the U.N. plan which they see as insufficient in ensuring full independence for Kosovo.