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Senior Kosovo Politician Repeats Appeal for Independence - 2004-06-22


A leading Kosovar politician Tuesday appealed again for the international community to support independence for the predominantly Albanian populated Serbian province currently administered by the United Nations.

Nexhat Daci, the speaker of the Kosovo assembly, told a gathering at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center that by failing to turn over power to the territory's elected government the United Nations is risking failure in Kosovo. Mr. Daci, who is considered a political moderate, called on the United Nations to endorse independence, a course of action overwhelmingly favored by local Albanians but opposed with equal vehemence by Serbs.

"We will not postpone it forever, for sure. We are working together with the international community to achieve it," says Daci. "If not, we have to take up our destiny in our hands and satisfy the 50-year fight of Kosovars for liberty, democracy and independence."

Kosovo has been administered by the U.N. since 1999, after NATO bombing forced Serbia to withdraw its forces from the restive province. About 90 percent of the province is inhabited by ethnic Albanians.

James Pettifer, a research associate at Britain's defense academy and expert on Kosovo, is doubtful about prospects for an agreement on Kosovo, at least in the near future.

"I think political developments in Serbia over the last year show that Serbia is moving in a more nationalistic direction. And this has been borne out recently by the win of the Radical Party in the recent first round of the Serbian presidential election," says Pettifer.

While few Serbs expect Kosovo to revert to control from Belgrade, Kosovo is an historical center of Serb culture and religion, housing dozens of Orthodox shrines and churches. Several of these sites were damaged or destroyed in anti-Serb riots that swept through Kosovo last March. Mr. Daci, a former university professor, says Kosovars are shamed by the violence. He blames political uncertainty and the territory's 65 percent unemployment rate for mounting frustration among young people.

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