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UN Administrator Sets Kosovo Elections in Mid-November

The United Nations administrator for Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province has called parliamentary and local elections for November 17.

Joachim Rucker said Friday he agrees with Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian leaders, who want elections to take place before parliament's three-year mandate expires later this year. Kosovo's current parliament was chosen in voting in October 2004.

Rucker has said previously that elections could be postponed if they interfere with the process of determining Kosovo's final status, the key issue dividing the province's ethnic-Albanian and Serb factions. Leaders of the ethnic Albanians, the dominant population group in Kosovo, insist they must be independent; Serbia says Kosovo can be broadly autonomous, but cannot be a separate state.

U.S. envoy Frank Wisner told VOA Albanian Service that he and his diplomatic colleagues from the European Union and Russia are determined to complete their negotiations in Kosovo on time, and deliver a report to the U.N. secretary-general by a December 10 deadline.

Kosovo's prime minister, Agim Ceku, says the province will declare independence unilaterally if the U.N. Security Council fails to agree on the issue. Serbia's foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, however, says Belgrade will respond in what he calls "an appropriate manner" if the international solution for the Kosovo dispute violates Serbia's territorial rights.

The international mediators say further talks with the two sides will take place in the coming weeks in New York, on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly session. And the European Union's envoy to Kosovo, Wolfgang Ischinger, says both sides have pledged to avoid inflammatory statements for the duration of talks.

In other developments, French General Xavier de Marnhac assumed command Friday of the international security force in Kosovo, replacing German General Roland Kather.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.