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Annan welcomes conclusion on constitutional framework for Kosovo

Annan welcomes conclusion on constitutional framework for Kosovo

Mr. Haekkerup signs constitutional framework
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the conclusion of a key legal document paving the way for provisional self-government in Kosovo.

A spokesman for the Secretary-General said in a statement that Mr. Annan commended the "consultative and inclusive manner" in which the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo had been elaborated.

"The Secretary-General believes that there are adequate guarantees built into the Constitutional Framework to protect the rights and interests of all of Kosovo's communities," the statement said. Mr. Annan "strongly encourages all communities to participate in the electoral process and the interim institutions that will flow from these," calling in particular on the Kosovo Serb community to register and take part in Kosovo-wide elections scheduled for 17 November.

"It is now time to move forward the political agenda in Kosovo," the spokesman said, stressing the Secretary-General's hope that the elections would show that the future of the province "lies in the peaceful pursuit of the political process." He added that the local leadership should "seize this opportunity to advance the interests of Kosovo in a peaceful and democratic manner."

The Constitutional Framework was signed today by the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Hans Haekkerup, at a ceremony in Pristina. Flanked by the Kosovo Albanian members of the Interim Administrative Council (IAC), Mr. Haekkerup called the Framework "a significant step forward: it does not address the final political solution, but it is a very important stepping stone for reaching final agreement at some stage."

All three Kosovo Albanian Members of the IAC said they would participate in the process outlined by the Framework, with two of them also expressing support for the document, UNMIK said. The Kosovo Serb IAC member did not attend the signing ceremony.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that more than 1,000 ethnic Albanians had fled to Kosovo from southern Serbia's volatile Presevo area, amid new clashes between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbian security forces. The agency said it had urged Yugoslav and Serbian authorities, as well as the area's ethnic Albanian leaders, to show maximum restraint ahead of a planned hand-over by NATO of parts of the Presevo area to Yugoslav forces on 24 May.