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EU Law-And-Order Mission's Deployment In Kosovo Delayed

Thaci said the EU mission would cover all of Kosovo's territory.
(RFE/RL) -- The European Union has delayed deployment of a major police and justice mission in Kosovo, amid continuing tensions about the exact role of the new body.

Some 2,000 experts comprising the EULEX mission are to oversee the police, the judiciary, and customs in Kosovo, backed by 1,100 local staff.

The EULEX mission has run into its share of problems on its way to full deployment. It started to take up its duties almost a year ago, but stopped because of objections from Serbia, which demanded that the move should be covered by authorization from the UN Security Council.

The council gave its approval last week, and EULEX chief Yves de Kermabon set December 2 as the day to begin moving his experts into place. But Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci now says the deployment will not go ahead until December 9. In comments made on December 1, he gave no reason for the delay.

And EU officials are even vaguer, saying the exact date is yet to be decided in the coming days by the bloc's foreign ministers.

Continuing disputes have threatened to derail the deployment. Belgrade and local Serbian leaders objected to EULEX staff being posted all around Kosovo, in that they saw as strengthening the breakaway province's claim to independence.

After much bickering, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon negotiated a plan on November 10 under which EULEX personnel would be deployed only in the majority ethnic-Albanian areas, and not in the areas inhabited mainly by the Serbian minority.

Under Ban's six-point plan, the United Nations would continue to administer the police and judicial functions in the Serbian areas.

This raised strong objections from the Albanian side, which sees it as contravening Kosovo's constitution, and as an attempt to support the eventual partition of Kosovo according to ethnicity.

On December 1, Prime Minister Thaci said the EU deployment, when it came, would cover all of Kosovo's territory, indicating he has not accepted Ban's plan. He said it would not make sense to leave out the Serbian areas.

Thaci is under political pressure from his own side, with at least one party, the Democratic League of Dardania, calling for his resignation for failing to guarantee the sovereignty of Kosovo. And more protests are planned in the capital, Pristina.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February after nine years under UN stewardship and is recognized by more than 50 countries.

The Kosovo subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service contributed to this article