Serb minister details Kosovo division proposal

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia has proposed a plan for the “functional division of Serbs and Kosovo Albanians” in Kosovo, Minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardzic was quoted on Saturday as saying.

He said the plan referred to all of Kosovo and was part of the government’s action plan to reject Kosovo’s independence, declared with Western support on February 17.

Diplomats said it amounted to a plan for partition which the West rejects.

Samardzic said Serbia respected a U.N. resolution on Kosovo which turned the province over to U.N. administration and NATO protection in 1999, and the mission that has run it ever since, known as UNMIK.

“We accept resolution 1244 and the authority of the UNMIK police, judiciary and customs office. But after the unilateral declaration of independence, only Serbs, with the help of Serbia, can perform those duties,” he told the daily Politika.

Samardzic confirmed he submitted the proposal to UNMIK deputy chief Larry Rossin a week ago.

He said that if Serbia did not take over those institutions, then “Kosovo Albanians will, with the tacit approval of UNMIK, within a couple of months gain control of all institutions”.

He said Serbia had not given up on 1244, but it had been undermined by the unilateral declaration of independence.

The current situation was “a challenge to UNMIK to be creative and not withdraw with the job not done”.

“If they want peace and stability, they must reach a lasting agreement with the Serbs, and not try to put out fire every other day through violence,” Samardzic said.

Serbia’s ruling coalition collapsed earlier this month in disarray over Kosovo, with hardliners insisting the country must not pursue its bid to join the European Union until the EU reverses its recognition of the new state.

A caretaker government is now in place. The pro-Western faction of the coalition, led by President Boris Tadic, says Samardzic does not speak for all of Serbia.

The U.N. says Serbia’s nationalist-led government has been very selective in its adherence to 1244 for years and continues to actively undermine U.N. authority in the Kosovo Serb enclaves.

The worst violence since independence a month ago was triggered after the Kosovo Serb takeover of U.N. court building in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica prompted a NATO-backed police raid on Monday to retake control of the facility.

A Ukrainian U.N. policeman was killed by a hand-grenade.

The U.N. said it had “rock solid proof” that the Serbian interior ministry had agents in Mitrovica — where 1244 does not permit Serbian interference — and had instigated the occupation of the court building.

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