Thu May 23, 8:34 AM ET
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (Reuters) - The United Nations (news - web sites) administration overseeing Kosovo Thursday vetoed an ethnic Albanian-inspired resolution which implied the province could exercise the powers of an independent state.
Kosovo's U.N. governor Michael Steiner declared "null and void" the first resolution adopted by the Albanian-dominated assembly on protecting the territorial integrity of the southern Yugoslav province.
The resolution backed by pro-independence Albanians who dominate the assembly said it would not accept a border agreement signed last year between neighboring Macedonia and Yugoslavia, of which Kosovo is legally part.
It was the first serious clash between the assembly set up after a landmark election last November and the U.N. mission which has been governing Kosovo since NATO (news - web sites)'s 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
Thu May 23, 1:33 PM ET
By GARENTINA KRAJA, Associated Press Writer
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia - The top U.N. official in Kosovo struck down efforts by the province's fledgling assembly to act as a sovereign state Thursday, rejecting an effort by legislators to define Kosovo's boundaries.
The ruling came after lawmakers challenged a recent border agreement between Yugoslavia and Macedonia a deal over which they had no say. A resolution challenging the treaty passed 85-0, after Serb legislators walked out of the session in protest.
Within minutes, Michael Steiner, the top U.N. official in Kosovo, declared the resolution invalid the first time the assembly has been overruled by international officials.
"The resolution has no legal status," said Simon Haselock, the spokesman for the U.N. mission in Kosovo. "It's outside the responsibilities of the assembly and that's why it was overruled."
The assembly was created to govern Kosovo together with the United Nations (news - web sites) and NATO (news - web sites), which took over the region after ousting the forces of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (news - web sites) in 1999. But, under international agreements the assembly is limited only to taking on day-to-day affairs, leaving larger issues on security and borders to international officials.
International officials, however, failed in attempts to pressure the assembly to withdraw the resolution the first time legislators had considered a territorial issue since provincial elections in November.
Steiner, who is empowered to block any decision made by the assembly, rejected the resolution as a setback for the province.
"The assembly has antagonized the international community," Steiner said. "And the net result is that my possibilities to help (to solve the issues) have been objectively weakened."
Ethnic Albanians who form the majority of the province's 2 million people, are angry because Yugoslavia and Macedonia struck a border deal in which 2,500 hectares (6,100 acres) of land owned by Kosovo Albanians was defined as being part of Macedonia.
The agreement was recognized by U.N. Security Council, but has remained a matter of dispute among the province's ethnic Albanians since the measure was announced last year.
In Macedonia, where an ethnic Albanian insurrection that ended last year was supported by radicals from Kosovo, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski asserted that the assembly's resolution creates a "continuing, permanent threat to Macedonia."
He said that the disputed border had become a major problem in the Balkans. "I know it is impossible to completely seal the border, but it should be controlled as much as possible," Georgievski said.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Bogdan Casule warned Kosovo's elected leaders not to dispute the border deal.
"We consider this an attempt to redraw borders of ... sovereign countries," he said.
In Belgrade, the Yugoslav foreign ministry said it would demand an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council over the resolution, which it called a direct violation of a U.N. resolution that defined the limited role of the assembly.
Kosovo formally remains part of Yugoslavia even though the Belgrade government has little input in the province's affairs.