09 July 2007

Serbia's new parliament expected to reject U.N. plan for Kosovo

Associated Press, Wednesday, February 14, 2007 5:03 AM


BELGRADE, Serbia-Serbia's new parliament convenes Wednesday for a vote expected to overwhelmingly reject a U.N. plan that would give Kosovo virtual independence.


The parliament's rejection, a powerful symbolic blow to the U.N. proposal, would be a further indication that no compromise is possible and a resolution to the dispute over Kosovo's final status will have to be imposed by the U.N. Security Council.


The assembly, meeting in its inaugural session after last month's elections, plans to adopt a resolution saying the U.N. proposal drafted by envoy Martti Ahtisaari "breaches fundamental principles of international law because it ignores the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Serbia.


The plan, welcomed by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership, envisages self-rule for the southern province, including a flag, anthem, army, constitution and the right to join international organizations.


"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 overwhelmingly approve.


The parliamentary rejection will doom any hope of a compromise between Serbian and ethnic Albanian officials at the final round of negotiations on the plan scheduled to start in Vienna, Austria, next week.


Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 when NATO bombing halted a Serb crackdown on the ethnic Albanian separatists and turned the province into a U.N. protectorate. Belgrade has offered broad autonomy for the province, which it considers the medieval cradle of its statehood. But Kosovo Albanians demand complete secession.


After the final round of negotiations in Vienna, Ahtisaari plans to put his proposal before the U.N. Security Council by the end of next month.


Ahtisaari has already warned the council will likely have to impose a solution on the troubled province because any compromise on his plan, sought by the United States and the European Union, was unlikely in the Vienna talks.


Serbia's historic ally Russia, one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the council, has long expressed reservations about Kosovo's separatist aspirations, saying it could become a model for other separatist movements elsewhere in the world.


Washington, which supports Kosovo's independence, maintains that Ahtisaari's plan is a "one-off" because the province has been under U.N. rule since the end of the war there.