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UN Extends Kosovo Envoy's Mandate into Next Year


The United Nations has extended until next year the mandate of the organization's mediator on the status of Kosovo.

The spokeswoman for Martti Ahtisaari's team said Thursday that the envoy will remain in office until June 2007. His original mandate was to end in December.

Ahtisaari's spokesman said that the purpose of the extension is administrative and is not linked to the negotiating process.

Ahtisaari has mediated negotiations between Serbia and the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo province since February, without a major breakthrough. Kosovo's majority Albanian population wants complete independence, while Belgrade wants to retain control over the territory.

The mediator is to present the United Nations with his own proposal for the status of the province by the end of the year. Ahtisaari's plan is expected to result in Kosovo independence.

Serbian legislators drafted a new constitution last month that declares Kosovo an integral part of the country. Belgrade is planning to hold a referendum on the draft later this month, including ethnic Serbs in Kosovo in the vote.

Kosovo lawmakers Thursday adopted a declaration condemning Serbia's plans to also hold the vote in Kosovo. The called the plan illegal.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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