As the Assembly of Kosovo opened today marking the start of the transfer of power from the United Nations to the provisional institutions of self-government, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the event as a "milestone on the road to democracy."
"This is a day of hope, but also an occasion for reflection and renewed resolve," Mr. Annan said in a message to the inaugural session, which brought together democratically elected representatives of Kosovo. He said those present faced the challenge of functioning in "particularly difficult circumstances" while overcoming the legacy of the past and establishing a political culture of tolerance, mutual respect and constructive compromise.
"No one must suffer discrimination by virtue of her or his ethnic origin," he stressed in the message delivered on his behalf by Hans Haekkerup, the chief of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
The Secretary-General also hailed the timing of the Assembly's inauguration, which "by the most fortuitous of coincidences" took place on the same date as the international observance of Human Rights Day. "I trust that you will use wisely the mandate given to you by the people of Kosovo," he said.
After hearing the Secretary-General's message, the 120-member Assembly voted to seat five members of the seven-member Presidency of the Assembly.
The 26 members of the Democratic Party of Kosovo staged a brief walkout, with leader Hashim Thaci complaining that he had not been allowed to speak. They returned after the newly-elected President of the Assembly, Nexhet Daci took the floor. Mr. Daci adjourned the session, and scheduled the Assembly to reconvene on Thursday to elect a President of Kosovo.