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Page last updated at 11:11 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 12:11 UK

UN expects to stay on in Kosovo

Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci (L) with UN special representative Joachim Ruecker
Mr Ruecker (R) has rejected any idea of an ethnic partition of Kosovo

The head of the UN mission in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, has said he expects it to stay, throwing into doubt a planned June handover to EU officials.

Mr Ruecker told the BBC that the extent of co-operation with the EU mission "had yet to be decided".

The authorities in Kosovo were due to take over from the UN, with the support of a 2,000-strong EU mission.

But Kosovo Serbs backed by Belgrade have condemned the European Union's deployment as illegal.

On Sunday, the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church was reported as saying that those countries which had recognised Kosovo's independence were "tyrants of this world".

In a message to coincide with the Orthodox Easter, Patriarch Pavle was quoted as saying: "Kosovo is not only a question of territory, it is a question of our spiritual being."

In an interview with the BBC's Nick Thorpe, Mr Ruecker said that the UN's goal in Kosovo was to preserve peace and stability as well as the United Nations' legacy.

The UN took control of Kosovo after Serb forces were driven out by Nato in 1999.

"One thing is for sure," Mr Ruecker said.

"As long as [UN Security Council] resolution 1244 is in place, we will always have a UN responsibility for Kosovo, and the exact shape and form of that UN mission is yet to be decided."

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Under the UN's Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo, rejected by Belgrade, there would be a 120-day period of transition to allow "supervised independence" to take effect.

Serbia's opposition to the EU mission has raised the prospect of UN officials staying on in the Serb-dominated northern area of Kosovo.

Mr Ruecker said there should not be a division of labour along ethnic lines, although he indicated that the UN might have to work alongside the EU's police and justice mission (Eulex).

"We do take note of the fact that Eulex is coming in, Eulex is deploying, and in principle we do not want to duplicate, also for the international tax-payers sake. But whether and how there can be co-operation with EULEX has yet to be decided," he said.

Our correspondent points out that any decision not to hand over buildings or vehicles could cause a delay to the EU mission and result in a lack of a clear mandate.




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