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UN Security Council Split Over Serb Elections in Kosovo

The U.N. Security Council continues to be divided over the status of Kosovo, with member states now split on whether Serbian planned local elections next month in the newly declared state should go ahead or whether they are illegal under a U.N. mandate. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Speaking as the U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors Monday to discuss the latest report from the Secretary-General on Kosovo, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters that the Serbs need to reconsider their position on the May 11 local elections that would include Kosovo.

"We believe the election -- and I directly addressed the President of Serbia -- that those elections should not go forward, that they would be illegitimate, and that the U.N. representative, Mr. [Joachim] Rücker, has characterized it as such. Going forward with that would not be helpful," he said.

British Ambassador John Sawers echoed that position, saying London looks to Belgrade to reverse its decision.

But Serbia's staunch ally, Russia, does not see any reason why the elections should not go ahead. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. "We believe that the Serbs have every right to conduct their parliamentary and municipal elections when they see fit," he said.

The head of the U.N mission in Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, also attended the Security Council meeting. He has declared that holding the local elections would breach Security Council resolution 1244 which governs the U.N. presence in Kosovo.

In the past, the U.N. has allowed Kosovo Serbs to vote in Serbia's parliamentary and presidential elections, but local elections are seen as undermining international authorities, because they deal directly with Kosovo's internal municipal arrangements.

Serbian President Boris Tadic and Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci came to New York for Monday's closed door meeting and addressed the council.

Afterwards, President Tadic addressed concerns about the May 11 vote, saying Belgrade is ready to talk with the U.N. about the elections. "… we are ready to talk with UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) representatives about local elections. There is no problem about parliamentary elections on Kosovo. But we have to talk about [a] possible solution in terms of local, municipal elections. We are ready to do that," he said.

Kosovo's Prime Minister, Hachim Thaci, said his government respects dual citizenship for all citizens in Kosovo, but would view Serb-organized local elections as illegitimate.

Since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February, it has won the recognition of 38 countries. But Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo's independence, saying it is illegal under international law.