Decision on Kosovan independence to be postponed
by Ian Traynor
The international powers have put off deciding to impose independence on Kosovo in an attempt to forestall extreme nationalists coming to power in Serbia. Serbia has announced an early election for 21 January, with the extreme nationalist Radical party tipped to emerge as the strongest party. Simultaneously in Vienna, the UN envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, and diplomats from the US, Europe and Russia went back on earlier pledges to resolve Kosovo's status this year. They said they would wait until after the Serbian ballot before making public their recommendations.
Serbian officials have been trying to delay a decision on Kosovo and are waging a ferocious campaign warning of the risks to international stability of an independent Kosovo. Last month the prime minister, Vojislav Koštunica, rushed through a constitution proclaiming Kosovo forever part of Serbia. The issue will dominate the election campaign. In a study of the constitution this week, the International Crisis Group think tank said that Serbia was in effect turning its back on mainstream liberal democracy in Europe and reverting to a role as a nationalist, authoritarian seat of instability in the Balkans.
Mr Ahtisaari, strongly backed by the US and Britain, is certain to recommend that Serbia lose Kosovo, although the province's independence will be hedged with conditions that fall short of full sovereignty for some time to come. Tensions are rising as the deadline for a decision nears. Any longer postponement risks an explosion of frustration among Kosovo's two million Albanians.
From a report in The Guardian (London), 11 November 2006