Serb minister details Kosovo division proposal

22/03/2008 - 17:01

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 ofthe 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 whichthe West rejects.

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

"We accept resolution 1244 and the authority of the UNMIKpolice, judiciary and customs office. But after the unilateraldeclaration of independence, only Serbs, with the help ofSerbia, can perform those duties," he told the daily Politika.

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

He said that if Serbia did not take over thoseinstitutions, then "Kosovo Albanians will, with the tacitapproval of UNMIK, within a couple of months gain control ofall institutions".

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

The current situation was "a challenge to UNMIK to becreative and not withdraw with the job not done".

"If they want peace and stability, they must reach alasting agreement with the Serbs, and not try to put out fireevery other day through violence," Samardzic said.

Serbia's ruling coalition collapsed earlier this month indisarray over Kosovo, with hardliners insisting the countrymust not pursue its bid to join the European Union until the EUreverses its recognition of the new state.

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

The U.N. says Serbia's nationalist-led government has beenvery selective in its adherence to 1244 for years and continuesto actively undermine U.N. authority in the Kosovo Serbenclaves.

The worst violence since independence a month ago wastriggered after the Kosovo Serb takeover of U.N. court buildingin the flashpoint town of Mitrovica prompted a NATO-backedpolice 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 Serbianinterior ministry had agents in Mitrovica -- where 1244 doesnot permit Serbian interference -- and had instigated theoccupation of the court building.

(Reporting by Gordana Filipovic; writing by DouglasHamilton; editing by Richard Meares)

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