UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The head of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) conceded Friday that his legal authority in the ethnic Albanian majority territory had been drastically curtailed since a new constitution went into force last month.
"Since the entry into force of the Kosovo constitution, exercising my legal powers under UN Security Council resolution 1244 has become increasingly difficult in practice," Lamberto Zannier told the Security Council.
"My power to impose solutions throughout much of the territory has in practice disappeared," he added during a debate on Kosovo.
A new constitution went into force last June in Kosovo, where the ethnic Albanian majority unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17.
Forty-three countries, including the United States and major European nations, have recognized Kosovo, but its declaration of independence is disputed by Serbia and its main ally, Russia.
The new constitution paved the way for the introduction of EULEX, a 2,000-strong European Union police and justice mission.
UNMIK, which has run Kosovo under Resolution 1244 since a NATO bombing campaign in 1999 ousted Serbian forces then waging a brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians, has also transferred some powers to Kosovar authorities.
Friday's council debate brought out some lingering divisions over UN chief Ban Ki-moon's decision to reconfigure UNMIK in the wake of Kosovo's secession from Belgrade.
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad reaffirmed Washington's full support for Ban's decision "to authorize transfer of responsibilities regarding the rule of law from UNMIK to EULEX."
Kosovo's foreign minister Skender Hyseni said Pristina looked forward to EULEX's deployment throughout Kosovo.
France's deputy ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the council that EULEX was gradually assuming "a greater operational role within the framework set by the UN secretary general" and should be fully operational in the fall.
But Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic criticized Ban's reconfiguration plan although he said Belgrade was prepared to negotiate the issue with the UN, but not with "the secessionist self-declared provisional authority of Kosovo."
"Reconfiguration must not go beyond the red lines marked out by Resolution 1244. It must not infringe upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia," he told the council.
Jeremic insisted that the reconfiguration "be completed with our acceptance, and explicitly approved by the Security Council."
His stance was backed by Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who said Ban had "exceeded his authority by intruding in statutory prerogatives of the council."
The Russian envoy said Moscow was concerned about attempts to undermine "the international presence in Kosovo established by the Security Council" and "to legalize a structure which would... in fact abet a unilateral declaration of sovereignty."
Jeremic however vowed that his country wanted to settle the Kosovo issue through compromise and within the framework of European Union integration.
"By pursuing a policy of peace through compromise, the Western Balkans can truly be transformed into a region that submits to the rule of law, while embracing Europe," he said.
Jeremic said Belgrade showed that it was serious about securing EU membership by its arrest Monday of Radovan Karadzic, the wartime Bosnian Serb leader indicted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.
Meanwhile Kosovo's foreign minister Skender Hyseni disclosed that Pristina had started applications to join the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and said: "The first reactions are excellent."
"Kosovo will in due course apply for full membership into other international institutions, including the UN," he added, despite strenuous opposition from Serbia and veto-wielding Security Council member Russia.
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