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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 February 2008, 03:49 GMT
EU Kosovo mission to be deployed
Kosovo's PM Hashim Thaci
Prime Minister Thaci said Kosovo was the homeland of all its citizens
The EU has approved a civilian police and justice mission to help enforce the rule of law in Kosovo, which is poised to declare independence from Serbia.

The 2,000-strong mission will begin deploying to the region from next week.

The US and most EU states are preparing to recognise Kosovo quickly, but Serbia and Russia strongly oppose the move, which is widely expected on Sunday.

Earlier, Kosovo's PM sought to reassure the province's Serbian minority that it would not face discrimination.

Speaking to reporters in Kosovo's capital Pristina, Hashim Thaci pledged that the rights of all communities, including Serbs, would be guaranteed.

He said no citizen of an independent Kosovo should feel discriminated against.

"In Kosovo, there will be security for all citizens. The government is committed to looking forward to the future and overcoming the sad past."

Clear signal

The EU waited diplomatically until Serbia's pro-Western President Boris Tadic was sworn into office on Friday before giving the final green light for the deployment of the mission, says the BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels.

map
The decision was formalised by a so-called "silent procedure", under which members of the 27-nation bloc had until midnight on Friday to voice objections.

The 2,000 EU police and customs officers, judges and prosecutors are tasked with helping to prevent human rights abuses and ensure that Kosovo's fragile institutions are free from political interference.

Crucially, the mission will be able to intervene in sensitive areas such as fighting corruption and organised crime and catching war crime suspects.

While Germany and Italy are the biggest contributors, all EU members except for tiny Malta will take part, as well as non-EU countries like the United States, Turkey and Croatia.

Our correspondent says it is a clear signal to Serbia and Russia, which fiercely oppose Kosovo's independence and insist the presence of the EU there will be illegal.

Limitations

Serbia has threatened to use diplomatic and economic measures against Kosovo, though it has ruled out using force.

A poster in Pristina which reads Independence
There is a festive mood in Pristina, correspondents say

"I will never give up fighting for our Kosovo," Serbian President Tadic said as he took the oath of office on Friday, 10 days after being re-elected for a second term.

The EU mission, known as EULEX, is to be deployed over four months, and is expected to take over from the United Nations by early June.

The UN has administered Kosovo since a Nato bombing campaign in 1999 drove out Serb forces.

The US and a number of EU countries, including the UK, are expected to recognise Kosovo quickly.

A UN plan on independence includes limitations on independence.

These include supervision by an international presence; limited armed forces; strong provisions for Serb minority protection; commitment to multi-ethnic democracy; and neither Kosovo nor any part of it will be allowed to join another country.

distribution of ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo



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