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UN Holds Talks With Serbia's Kosovo Minister

UN official holds talks with Serbia's Kosovo Minister

16 March 2008 - Meeting with Serbia's Minister for Kosovo, a senior United Nations official today underscored that challenges - which violate Belgrade's pledges to the Security Council - to the mandate of the world body's mission, known as UNMIK, must come to an end.

The mission welcomed the recent statement by the Serbian Foreign Minister to the Security Council that UNMIK is the exclusive administrative authority in Kosovo and that resolution 1244 is the only legal framework, said Larry Rossin, the Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative, said.

"However, this now places responsibility on Belgrade to avoid or avert any action that challenges this authority."

In his meeting with Slobodan Samardzic, Mr. Rossin emphasized that last week's attack on and occupation of UNMIK's District Court building in Mitrovica, as well as Serbian Railways continued use of the rail line, are violations of the mission's exclusive mandate. He noted that such moves are at odds with Serbia's direct assurances to the Council.

The Deputy Special Representative urged Mr. Samardzic to immediate take measures to end these and other challenges to UNMIK's authority and to refrain from making inflammatory public statements during his visit to Kosovo, which has been administered by the UN since Western forces drove out Yugoslav forces amid inter-ethnic fighting in 1999.

Although both he and Special Representative Joachim Rücker are ready to enter into direct talks with Belgrade, recent developments create an unfavourable atmosphere for such discussions.

"For dialogue to be potentially fruitful, we need the authorities in Belgrade to take effective steps to counter such challenges - before, during and after - whether unambiguous public statements, practical use of influence or cessation of direct improper intrusions," Mr. Rossin said.

Last month, the Assembly of Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo - where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by nine to one - declared independence from Serbia, and since then both Mr. Rücker and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have underlined the need for restraint from all sides.

ENDS

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