PRISTINA, Serbia, June 7 (Reuters) - World powers have given Kosovo six months to implement 13 specific steps to improve Serb rights as they near a decision on the demand of the province's ethnic Albanian majority for independence from Serbia.
The steps include adopting laws on languages and religious freedom, allocating funds for refugee returns and opening more police stations to address the rights and security of Kosovo's minorities, primarily its 100,000 Serbs.
The checklist, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, is a trimmed version of a much-criticised 2003 "Standards" document that contained over 100 pages of targets the United Nations wanted met before tackling Kosovo's fate.
The province of 2 million has been run by the United Nations since NATO bombs drove out Serb forces in June 1999 to end their brutal two-year counter-insurgency war.
The U.N. Security Council launched status talks last year after an envoy to Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticised progress on the standards but said delaying a decision on Kosovo's final status risked further stagnation.
The West wants a deal this year, fearing a repeat of 2004 Albanian riots that stretched NATO's 17,000 peacekeepers.
The Contact Group of the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and Italy this week set leaders of the ethnic Albanian majority 13 tasks it wants done "within four to six months" -- the timeframe set for a deal on Kosovo's fate.
"To help focus (government) efforts over the next four to six months, the Contact Group has coordinated with the U.N. mission a list of priority action items for immediate implementation," the document states.
"This list is not exhaustive nor is it intended to minimise the importance of implementing all the Standards."
When Nato deployed half the Serb population fled a wave of revenge attacks and there are still sporadic shootings and bomb blasts targeting the Serb minority.
Diplomats say the West favours independence but wants the Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the province's population, to do more for the ghettoised Serb minority.
Kosovo's U.N. governor, Soren Jessen-Petersen, will praise recent Albanian efforts on minority rights in a report, seen in advance by Reuters, to the Security Council on June 20.
Serbs in the north said this week they had cut ties with the ethnic Albanian authorities over a spate of shootings they blame on Albanians. To ease fears, The U.N. said on Wednesday it would fill 130 vacancies in the Kosovo police with former Serbian police officers, provided their records were clean.
Serbs and Albanians opened direct talks on local government and church protection in February in Vienna. U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari will call for talks on Kosovo's final status in July.
Serbia shows no sign of agreeing to Kosovo's independence.