The United Nations special representative for Kosovo says the majority-ethnic Albanian province is making some progress toward building democracy. But he expressed disappointment that the province's minority Serbs are not taking part in that process.
Addressing the Security Council, the U.N. representative, former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri, said the top priority of the U.N. mission which administers the province, is to finalize a plan for implementing a set of standards for building democracy.
"Our most urgent task is to produce an implementation work-plan, setting out clearly the actions necessary to reach the standards," he said.
These standards will form the basis for a U.N. assessment next year of whether the province is ready for talks about its final status, either independence or autonomy within Serbia and Montenegro.
Mr. Holkeri said work has begun on implementing measures to meet these standards. But he said he was disappointed that Kosovo Serbs, who make up about 10 percent of the population, have refused to take part in the process. He called on them to take an active role, saying it is important for all communities to participate in determining Kosovo's future. He said it was the U.N. mission's job to ensure that everyone is fairly represented.
But Serbia's assistant minister for foreign affairs, Zeljko Perovic, said the U.N. is not doing enough to make the process all-inclusive.
"Currently, all the political, economic and social advantages belong only to one community," he said. "The other side sees very little hope, and is becoming increasingly desperate. UNMIK must take this real thing into serious consideration, and take measures to rectify the huge imbalance. If not, the end result will be failure that nobody can afford."
Mr. Holkeri called the criticism unjustified, saying the U.N. and Kosovo's government have provided assurances to the Kosovo Serbs.
The U.N.'s report comes as Kosovo's prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi, is in Washington for talks with U.S. officials. The United States is urging Kosovo's leaders to focus more on creating a multi-ethnic democratic society, rather than on determining the province's final status.
Kosovo was a province of the former Yugoslavia. Since 1999, it has been a United Nations protectorate, after NATO air strikes ended a bloody conflict between separatist ethnic-Albanian forces and Serbian troops.