The United Nations Thursday asserted its authority over the whole of Kosovo and warned Serbia not to extend its May 11 local elections to parts of Kosovo in defiance of its declaration of independence and Western nations' support of it. ( dpa )
Belgrade plans to hold elections in municipalities of northern Kosovo with a Serb majority at the same time as early parliamentary elections in Serbia.
Ethnic Albanians make up 90 per cent of Kosovo's population, but Serbs dominate in the northern 20 per cent of the territory. Serbia has established strong institutions in the area and the population largely ignores the Pristina authorities and the UN.
Pristina and the UN have so far been tolerant of the defiance, which has also been violent on occasion, in the northern Serb enclave.
Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's cabinet confirmed plans to hold local polls across its boundary together with the vote in Serbia proper, though the UN and the world's leading powers comprising the Contact Group for Kosovo said it was illegal.
"The decision was made unanimously. Elections will be held in Kosovo," Commerce Minister Predrag Bubalo said after the caretaker cabinet met in Belgrade Thursday.
But the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) head Joachim Ruecker, in a letter to Serbian Kosovo Minister Slobodan Samardzic, warned that only the UN has the authority to schedule elections in Kosovo.
"I trust that Serbia will continue to respect UNMIK authority and mandate (and) will refrain from any unauthorized municipal elections and/or governance activity in Kosovo," Ruecker said.
Kosovo and its Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in February. More than 30 nations, including many leading Western nations, have recognized the new country.
Serbia, backed by Russia, refuses to accept Kosovo's independence and has withdrawn its ambassadors from capitals that did.