12 September 2006

Parliament Accepts New Constitution

By MISHA SAVIC, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 39 minutes ago
BELGRADE, Serbia - Serbia toughened its stand on
Kosovo' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Kosovo Tuesday as parliament decided that a planned new constitution would refer to the disputed province as an "integral" part of Serbia, regardless of U.N.-led negotiations on whether to grant it independence.
The parliamentary vote effectively ruled out Belgrade's consent if the international talks decide in favor of the majority ethnic Albanians who want the province to be independent.

The talks began this year to try to resolve the future of Kosovo — a province about the size of Connecticut that has been run by the
United Nations' NATO launched a bombing campaign to end a Serb crackdown on independence-minded ethnic Albanian rebels in 1999.
The Serbian lawmakers voted 219-5 in favor of declaring Kosovo a "historic and integral part of Serbia" in a planned new constitution. They also overwhelmingly adopted a report by Serbia's negotiators in the talks, who warned that independence for Kosovo would risk creating a precedent that would encourage separatist movements beyond the Balkans.
Serbia's government has offered Kosovo a broad autonomy, instead of independence.
Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told the assembly "we are requested to give up Kosovo ... we are being asked to humiliate ourselves as a state." He did not name countries pressing for Kosovo's independence.
Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the extreme nationalist Serbian Radical Party, urged Kostunica to prepare Serbia's army for a war over Kosovo.
"I want to know what our armed forces will do," Nikolic said in the parliament. "If we don't have enough motivation and weapons (to go to war), then don't tell us that Kosovo is part of Serbia."
Both Kostunica and pro-Western President Boris Tadic have ruled out new armed conflicts over Kosovo, pledging to defend it only by legal means.
Most Serbs consider Kosovo their heartland and the cradle of their history and culture. About 100,000 Serbs still live in Kosovo. Twice as many have fled from the ethnic Albanian-dominated province since 1999.
Also Tuesday, the government announced it would invest $41.4 million in Serb enclaves in Kosovo over the next 15 months to help the embattled minority living among the ethnic Albanians.
The funds are to create jobs for the dwindling Serb community, build roads and other infrastructure, and to improve their education and health care.