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As Kosovo nears final status decision, UN mission organizes outreach meetings

7 March 2007 The United Nations mission in Kosovo is arranging dozens of outreach meetings focused on the integration of minorities and good governance as the Albanian-majority Serbian province which the world body has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting nears a decision on its final status.

The activities, including town hall and youth meetings, public gatherings and round table discussions have been organized and facilitated by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Multi-Ethnicity and Outreach Unit as part of the Office of the Strategy Coordinator (STRATCO) in its efforts to help Kosovo society attain a better life in line with European and international standards.

This includes bringing to the forefront the role the majority population plays in integrating minorities in the province where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1, with an emphasis on the so-called Standards, eight targets that include building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and setting up an impartial legal system.

“By coordinating the efforts to promote Standards implementation and in the outreach process for minorities, UNMIK has analyzed, evaluated and offered guidance on ways to ensure that Kosovo becomes a vibrant multiethnic society,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Joachim Rücker said.

The meetings come as Mr. Ban’s Special Envoy for the status process Martti Ahtisaari continues discussions with Serbia and the province’s ethnic Albanian-led government on a plan he presented earlier this year, which would give Kosovo the right to govern itself and conclude international agreements, including membership in international bodies, under international civilian and military supervision to help to ensure peace and stability.

The plan does not specifically mention independence, which Serbia rejects but which many ethnic Albanians seek, and Mr. Ahtisaari reported last week that the sides remain “diametrically opposed” on his proposals. Following further talks he plans to present a further version to the Security Council by the end of the month.

Asked last month whether he would characterize his proposals as independence in all but name, he said both sides were interpreting them as meaning independence supervised by the international community, but he would make “a very clear statement on that” when he presents the final version.

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