PRISTINA, Serbia, June 30, 2006 (AFP) -
The outgoing head of the United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Soren Jessen-Petersen was decorated with a medal for civil service before he left the UN-run province Friday.
Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu, who awarded Jessen-Petersen the gold medal, said it was the first time an international official had been so decorated.
"He proved his dedication and devotion in all aspects. We thank him very, very, very much for everything he has done for Kosovo," Sejdiu said.
Jessen-Petersen, who became the fifth head of UNMIK in August 2004, announced his resignation from the post earlier this month, saying he was leaving for family reasons.
Ethnic Albanian leaders consider him the most successful UNMIK chief as talks on final Kosovo status have been launched during his mandate.
"Kosovo is in the last kilometer to reach the finish set 10 years ago," Jessen-Petersen said at the farewell ceremony, referring to the independence of the province sought by the ethnic Albanian majority, but opposed by Belgrade.
Legally still a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations and NATO since mid-1999 when alliance bombing drove out forces loyal to then Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who had waged a brutal crackdown on separatist Albanian rebels.