The reconfiguration of the international presence... must be decided by the Security Council - Serbia's President

The reconfiguration of the international presence... must be decided by the Security Council -   Serbia's President

Serbia's government on Friday disputed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's plan to change the world body's role in Kosovo now that it has declared independence, the AP reported.

Serbian leaders said only the U.N. Security Council can make changes to the U.N. mission, which was established after the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999.

"It is our position that the reconfiguration of the international presence ... must be decided by the Security Council," President Boris Tadic said in a letter to Ban.

Slobodan Samardzic, hardline government minister for Kosovo, declared that Ban "has overstepped his authority," adding: "That is totally unacceptable for us."

In a report Thursday to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said he plans to give more authority to the EU over police, courts and other official duties in Kosovo. The U.N. has administered Kosovo, which will adopt a new constitution Sunday, for nine years.

Kosovo's president, Fatmir Sejdiu, said Friday that Ban's plan is "a positive process that will help developments in Kosovo." But after discussing it with Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, and with opposition leaders, Sejdiu also told reporters: "We will have to take a deeper look and give our direct observations."

Kosovo's proposed constitution is strongly opposed by Russia, Serbia's traditional ally, which has called for the dismissal of the top U.N. official in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker. Russia, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, accused him of taking steps to reduce the U.N. mission there without authorization by the 15-nation council.

Serbia and Russia have rejected Kosovo's declaration of independence as illegal.

In his letter to Ban, Tadic said Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence was a risk to peace and stability in the Balkans. He urged more efforts at a compromise solution.

"Until such a solution is reached, the international community led by the United Nations should keep a central role in the maintenance of peace and stability," Tadic said in the letter obtained by AP.

Belgrade has said that it would only recognize the U.N. authority in Kosovo, not the newly-formed EU presence. Russia also has opposed the U.N.'s handover of responsibility for security to the European Union, which has forced the U.N. to remain in Kosovo.The U.S. and its key Western allies have recognized Kosovo's statehood.

Serbian officials argue that the proposed changes in the U.N. mission violate U.N. Resolution 1244, which paved the way for the U.N. presence in Kosovo in 1999.

Samardzic said Ban's plan would "legalize" the establishment of a disputed EU mission in Kosovo, which Serbia sees as a step toward recognition of the state's independence.

Tadic said "the EU has a significant role to play" in the region, and stressed "the importance of finding a legal way forward, acceptable to all stakeholders and approved by the Security Council."

"Only such an approach can produce a sustainable outcome," he said.

Serbia considers Kosovo as its historic heartland. Belgrade lost control over the territory in 1999, after NATO bombed the country for 78 days to stop a Serb onslaught against ethnic Albanian separatists. Serbian leaders, however, have vowed to one day retake Kosovo.

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