- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-led government is operating as an independent nation which its Serb minority refuses to recognize, leaving the United Nations in a difficult position as the administrator of the territory, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said that while Kosovo authorities maintain working contacts with a U.N. special representative, the U.N. mission in Kosovo “faces ever-increasing challenges to its ability to fulfill its mandate” under the council resolution which authorized the U.N. to administer the Serb province in 1999.

“There is a perception among many Kosovo Albanians that the mission’s tasks have been accomplished and its continued presence is an unwelcome obstacle to the desire for Kosovo to function as a sovereign state,” Ban said.

Kosovo came under U.N. and NATO administration after a NATO-led air war halted former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.

It was widely expected that the United Nations would leave Kosovo after majority ethnic Albanians declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008 in a move coordinated with the United States and key European nations. But Russia, which has strong ties to Serbia, vehemently objected, insisting that only the Security Council _ where it has a veto _ could end the U.N. mission.

That virtually rules out the departure of the United Nations, which Ban said has faced a “challenging period” in recent months.

Ban said Kosovo authorities, who are feeling pressure from opposition parties, have repeatedly said the Security Council’s resolution for Kosovo “is no longer relevant.”

At the same time, Kosovo’s Serbs insist that a new European Union mission to promote peace, justice and the rule of law in Kosovo must fully respect the council’s resolution, the secretary-general said.

Last November, the Security Council approved the deployment of the EU mission after Serbia and Kosovo both agreed _ reluctantly _ to cooperate with it.

The EU mission deployed without incident on Dec. 9 and has built up its presence to 1,687 international staff and 806 national employees.

But Ban said a March 5 visit to northern Kosovo by the Kosovo police commander and the head of the EU mission’s police “was cut short as hundreds of Kosovo Serbs blocked the roads and the entrance to police stations in protest.”

More than a year after the independence declaration, Kosovo has been recognized by 56 countries, but Serbia’s President Boris Tadic said his country will never recognize its independence.

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