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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 05:23 GMT 06:23 UK
UN launches Kosovo 'peace plan'
Serbian church being burned in Mitrovica
Religious symbols bore the brunt of the violence
The UN has unveiled a detailed plan aimed at bringing peace and stability in the troubled province of Kosovo.

The plan sets out a series of steps which the local authorities must implement before Kosovo's future political status can be discussed.

The ethnic-Albanian prime minister of Kosovo welcomed the plan, but Serbia's Kosovo envoy dismissed it as a "show".

The plan was launched just two weeks after clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs left 19 people dead.

The new figure - down from 28 - was released by the UN on Wednesday.

Eleven of the dead were ethnic Albanians and eight were Serbs, said police spokesman Neeraj Singh.

"It is not unusual in the aftermath of large scale public disorder for there to be an initial overestimation in the number of casualties," Mr Singh said, explaining the revised figures.

Hundreds of people were injured as the violence - which started in the ethnically-divided town of Mitrovica - spread across the province.

More than 3,000 Serbs had to flee their homes and churches, which were attacked by ethnic Albanian mobs.

Immediate priorities

"The violence has underlined the need for clear policy," Harri Holkeri, who leads the UN's mission in Kosovo (Unmik), told a news conference in the province's capital of Pristina.

"The plan states clearly what the policy is, who is responsible to undertake it and when this must happen," Mr Holkeri said.

The 100-page document - drawn by Unmik and Kosovo's government - envisages the creation of functioning democratic institutions and the continuation of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, which began last year in Vienna.

The plan - to be reviewed by mid-2005 - also urges to guarantee rights of minorities and the return of some 200,000 Serbs who fled Kosovo after Nato intervened and Yugoslav troops withdrew from the province in 1999.

The plan says the immediate priority for the local authorities will be to find and prosecute the perpetrators of the inter-ethnic clashes.

'Path towards independence'

The ethnic-Albanian Prime Minister of Kosovo, Bajram Rexhepi, said his government was committed to achieving the plan's goals.

But Serbia's envoy to Kosovo, Nebojsa Covic described the new initiative as "just a show".

"It's a path towards the independence of Kosovo and we must not be its accomplices," Mr Covic was quoted by Serbia's Beta news agency as saying.

Kosovo - nominally still a part of Serbia - was placed under the UN administration in 1999.

The ethnic Albanian majority demands an outright independence, but the Serb minority want the province to remain part of Serbia and Montenegro.

The BBC's Nick Hawton
"The threat of withholding loans and aid will put pressure on the new government"

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