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Kosovo Albanians Rally For Independence

(RFE/RL) March 3, 2007 -- Some 4,000 ethnic Albanians demanding immediate independence for Kosovo marched past the headquarters of the United Nations mission in Pristina today.

The group organizing the protest -- called Self-Determination -- opposes a UN plan for the province, which stops short of granting Kosovo full independence.

According to the plan, drafted by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari, Kosovo would enjoy many of the attributes of an independent state, such as a flag, anthem, border police, and membership of international institutions.

But an internationally appointed official would retain supervision over the province, with the right to veto legislation and dismiss local officials.

Kosovo Albanian leaders had appealed to the organizers to call off today's rally and said further unrest could deal a setback to the cause of independence, which they insist is on its way.

Serbian and Kosovo Albanian negotiators held a final round of talks with Ahtisaari in Vienna on March 2 , with no hint of any compromise.

If the two sides remain unable to agree to a joint solution, Ahtisaari will send his draft proposal to the United Nations Security Council for consideration.

(compiled from agency reports)

Spotlight On Kosovo

Spotlight On Kosovo

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.

For an archive of RFE/RL's coverage of developments in the disputed region of KOSOVO, click here.

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