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UN mission urges Serbia to stop undermining Kosovo elections

The UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) accused Serbian authorities on Tuesday of undermining the November elections in Kosovo and urged Belgrade to stop “intimidating” Kosovo Serbs who want to participate in the ethnic Albanian- dominated province’s polls.

“The least UNMIK expects is for Belgrade not to stop the Kosovo Serbs taking part in the elections,” UNMIK spokesman Alexander Ivanko told reporters in the provincial capital Pristina, referring the local and parliamentary elections scheduled for November 17. Ivanko said that in the last two weeks UNMIK had received reports saying that officials from Belgrade and some Serb leaders in Kosovo were not only failing to encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate in the vote, but were talking them out of it, and in some cases even threatening candidates, some of whom later withdrew their candidacies. The Serbian state leadership last month adopted the decision that not all conditions for Serb participation at the forthcoming elections in Kosovo had been met.

UNMIK chief Joachim Ruecker said on Tuesday that he expected the elections would be held in the entire territory of Kosovo and that they would be democratic. He asked Serb National Council (SNV) for northern Kosovo representatives to enable the technical conditions for the holding of provincial elections. “Serbs do not wish to take part in these elections because they would in that way provide certain multi-ethnicity for the institutions that have announced they will unilaterally proclaim an independent Kosovo,” SNV President Milan Ivanovic said, adding that two-thirds of Kosovo Serbs have been expelled and there is lack of security and freedom of movement. Asked how voting would be organized in northern Kosovo if local Serbs do not allow setting up polling stations in schools, a spokesman for the OSCE in Kosovo, Sven Lindholm, said there were plans to form mobile teams that would enable all wishing to vote to do so.

Kosovo, which legally remains a Serbian province, has been under UN administration since 1999. The predominantly Albanians of the 2 million population demand outright independence instead of maximum autonomy offered by Serbia.

Fresh negotiations are continuing under the aegis of the troika of EU, US and Russian envoys, but have so far showed little sign of breaking the deadlock. The troika will report on December 10 to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the latest talks. Russia wants talks to continue until a solution is agreed, irrespective of the December 10 deadline, while Kosovo Albanians say they are ready to declare independence with or without a deal. (people.com.cn)