Friday, December 31, 2004

U.N. administrator urges unity in troubled Kosovo

Kosovo's top U.N. official urged communities Friday to unite as they move toward solving the final status of this disputed province.

In his New Year's message, the province's Danish chief administrator, Soren Jessen-Petersen said that in 2005 "we must bring people together and foster the kind of harmony that Kosovo needs and that its people want."

Kosovo, formally a province of Serbia-Montenegro, has been administered by a United Nations mission since mid-1999 when a NATO air war brought to an end a crackdown by Serb forces on ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

Its status remains unresolved with Serbs wanting the province to remain part of Serbia and its ethnic Albanian majority insisting on full independence. The two communities are bitterly divided, with the Serb minority often a target of revenge attacks.

Jessen-Petersen, who holds the ultimate authority in Kosovo, appealed for an end to "the isolation in which too many in Kosovo live."

"There must be no places where people feel forced to live behind barricades and surrounded by barbed wire," he said alluding to the Serb minority. "2005 is the year we can solve this problem, if we believe, if we work together, and if all sides show goodwill."

The United Nations has conditioned talks on the final status with progress on a set of standards such as rule of law and protection of minorities and the return of some 200,000 Serbs and others who fled the province. A review date has been set for mid-2005.

"Next year, I expect that together we will make rapid progress because the time is short," Jessen-Petersen said.

He said that the outlined path creates "a society where everyone has a personal and a common perspective of security, prosperity and freedom."

"Let us resolve to believe in this future -- and to do all we can to make it a reality," he said.

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