Tuesday, August 29, 2006

U.N. official: Serb hard-liners must allow Kosovo integration

BERLIN (AP) - Hard-liners in Serbia are hindering the integration of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, the province's U.N. administrator said in remarks published Monday.

Involving ethnic Serbs with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority is among the biggest problems facing the province, Joachim Ruecker said in an interview the Handelsblatt daily.

"More must be done, not only by the Kosovo-Albanians, but also by the Serbian minority," Ruecker was quoted as saying. "The hard-liners in Belgrade must stop hindering the political and economic integration of Kosovo's Serbs."

Ruecker, a German diplomat, also expressed confidence that U.N.-brokered talks on the future status of the province will be completed by the end of the year.

Ethnic Albanians are seeking full independence in the negotiations, while Serbia is offering autonomy for the impoverished province.

Ruecker said concern that a decision could provoke violence was "far-fetched."

"The institutions have stabilized. The political establishment has realized that violence brings nothing. It is more mature than before," he said.

The U.N. has administered Kosovo since mid-1999 when a NATO air war halted Serb forces' crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

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