PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, May 31 (Reuters) - The United Nations has approved separate postal codes for Kosovo in a further move that Serbia says is tilting the scales in favour of independence for the ethnic Albanian majority.
Run by the U.N. since NATO forced Serb troops out six years ago, the province already has its own vehicle license plates and customs service. It is awaiting its own international telephone code and is demanding a Kosovo banking code as well.
Rafet Jashari, director of the Kosovo postal company, told a news conference the U.N. mission's legal office had approved Kosovo's membership of the Universal Postal Union, the Bern-based body that regulates international mail exchange between some 190 member countries.
Since the 1998-99 war, Kosovo post has been routed through Switzerland or Albania, often with long delays.
"By getting this code, everything will be sent and returned directly through Kosovo," he said. "It will increase speed and security ... and help economic development."
The U.N. mission has also applied for an international telephone code for Kosovo, and the province's Albanian-dominated institutions are pressing for the formal establishment of a central bank and independent SWIFT code for money transfers.
Serbia's pointman for Kosovo, Nebojsa Covic, complained to the U.N. Security Council last week that such initiatives "create an impression that, internationally, Kosovo ... is a completely separate entity".
Randjel Nojkic, a Kosovo Serb politician and Serbian postal and telecommunications official, told the Beta agency on Tuesday that Serb enclaves in Kosovo would ignore the new Kosovo code and continue to use their Serbian postal codes.
Until its "final status" is decided in U.N. mediated negotiations, possibly by the end of this year, the province of 2 million people formally remains part of Serbia and Montenegro.
Neither side talks about partition but in practice Kosovo is already divided. Most of the 90,000 Serbs who remained after the war continue to use the Serbian dinar, instead of the U.N.-imposed euro. They use schools and clinics that answer to Belgrade in what the U.N. calls an "illegal" parallel system.