PRISTINA (AP)--The U.N. is downsizing its mission in Kosovo, a spokesman said Thursday.
The mission began to trim the number of people on a team that has dealt with the civil administration in a province, which it has run since 1999, said Neeraj Singh, the U.N. spokesman in Kosovo.
Kosovo, legally part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia, has been administered by a U.N. mission since mid-1999 when a North Atlantic Treaty Organization air war forced Serbia to halt its crackdown on independence- seeking ethnic Albanians and relinquish control of the province.
Talks to determine Kosovo's future are expected to begin by the year's end. At the center of the issue are ethnic Albanian demands for an independent state, while Serbs want the province remains within their borders.
Recently, the U.N. has drafted plans to transfer responsibilities to the local authorities as it plans to decrease its presence while hoping to turn over some responsibilities to a possible European Union-led mission after the talks on the province's future.
The U.N. administration - in place since the conflict ended six years ago - runs the police, justice department and economy in the disputed region.
The province has an elected legislature, a president and a government working alongside the U.N. mission, which still remains the ultimate authority in the province's affairs.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires