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Graffiti calling for an independent Kosovo, Pristina (epa)
14 December 2005 -- A U.N. official today said that the ethnic communities living in Kosovo must work hard at finding a peaceful solution for the future status of Kosovo.
Albert Rohan, who is helping U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari lead negotiations on Kosovo's final status, also said that ethnic Albanian leaders need to ensure that minorities are protected if Kosovo's disputed status is to be resolved.
He also urged the Serb minority in Kosovo to participate in the province's political life, which they have been boycotting.
Kosovo was the scene of a bloody ethnic conflict that was stopped when NATO forced the Serbian military out of the area in 1999. Since then, the Serbian province has been administered by the United Nations.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority want to see a Kosovo independent of Serbia. Many Serbs view Kosovo as the cradle of their civilization, and say it should remain part of Serbia.
THE WORLD'S NEWEST NATION? The region of Kosovo has a population of more than 2 million, some 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians. It was one of the poorest regions in the former Yugoslavia, but has considerable mineral wealth and an enterprising population, many of whom work abroad but keep close contact with Kosovo. All ethnic Albanian political parties seek independence on the principles of self-determination and majority rule. They feel that Serbia lost its historically based claim to what was its autonomous province under the 1974 constitution by revoking that autonomy in the late 1980s and then conducting a crackdown in 1999 that forced some 850,000 people to flee their homes.
Since NATO's intervention that year to stop the expulsions, Kosovo has been under a UN administration (UNMIK). The UN has begun to gradually transfer functions to elected Kosovar institutions. The primary Serbian concerns are physical safety for the local Serbian minority, a secure return for the tens of thousands of Serbian displaced persons, and protection for historic Serbian religious buildings. The main problems affecting all Kosovars, however, are economic. Until Kosovo's final status is clarified and new legislation passed and enforced, it will not be able to attract the investment it needs to provide jobs for its population, which is one of the youngest and fastest growing in Europe. Prosperity is widely seen as the key to political stability and interethnic coexistence in Kosovo, as is the case in much of Southeastern Europe.
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