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Serbian Parliament Rejects UN Plan for Kosovo's Autonomy

Serbia's newly elected parliament Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected the United Nations plan for the virtual independence of Kosovo, Serbia's secessionist southern province that has been administered by the U.N. since 1999. VOA's Barry Wood has more.

The 250-member assembly voted 225 to 15 to reject the U.N., plan, with only the newest grouping in parliament, the Liberal Democrats, voting for it. The parliament's resolution says the U.N. proposal, presented February 2 by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, violates international law by failing to respect the territorial integrity of Serbia.

The resolution was drafted by outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica who last year won unanimous parliamentary support for a constitution that declares Kosovo an integral part of Serbia. The pro-western Serbian president, Boris Tadic, joined Mr. Kostunica in supporting the resolution.

The United Nations is expected to wind down its mission in Kosovo.

Mr. Ahtisaari was asked to prepare his own status proposal after months of negotiations between Belgrade and Kosovo's Albanian majority failed to produce any basis for a compromise solution. His plan satisfied neither the government in Belgrade nor the Kosovo Albanian majority.

Nine out of 10 Kosovars are ethnic Albanians, and a majority of them demand independence from Serbia.

The Ahtisaari plan stops short of endorsing independence but provides a blueprint for self-rule that could lead to independence. It also provides strong protection for minority Serbs. Despite that, the Serbs say they will participate in a negotiating session Ahtisaari will host in Vienna February 21.

Borut Gurgic, a Kosovo expert who heads Slovenia's Institute for Strategic Studies, told a Washington forum Wednesday that the Serbian vote complicates the negotiating process.

"If they outright rejected the Ahtisaari proposal, then the room for any negotiations is close to zero," said Borut Gurgic.

The Ahtisaari plan is expected to be presented to the UN Security Council in March. Serbia hopes that Russia will veto the measure. Some European Union countries also have doubts about the plan, fearing that its endorsement of secession might set a dangerous precedent for restive minorities elsewhere in Europe.