Serbia tells UN backing for Kosovo vote `impossible`

France and US expressed regret at calls for a Serb boycott of the election.

New York: Serbia told the United Nations on Friday that it would not urge ethnic Serbs to take part in Kosovo`s election next month as a UN envoy reported mounting tensions in the territory.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told the UN Security Council it was "plainly impossible" to back the election as demanded by the Kosovo government.

Kosovo, which split from Serbia in February 2008, will hold an election on December 12 after the collapse of the ethnic-Albanian dominated government.

Kosovo`s acting foreign minister Vlora Citaku told a Security Council debate the international community should urge Kosovo Serbs to take part in the vote "and call on the Serbian government not to obstruct their participation in elections”.

In the ethnic Serb dominated northern Kosovo "the influence of Belgrade is still preventing the process of integration in Kosovo`s public and institutional life”, she added, highlighting attacks on Serbs who have taken up public posts.

Jeremic said the elections were not being held in line with the 1999 UN resolution on Kosovo as the UN representative in Kosovo did not call them and the United Nations would not certify the result.

"Under such circumstances it is plainly impossible for the government of Serbia to invite any of our citizens to participate in them," the Serbian minister told the council.

France and the United States both expressed regret at calls for a Serb boycott of the election. Russia, Serbia`s main ally, lined up behind Jeremic.

Serbia refuses to recognise the independence of Kosovo but has agreed to hold talks with the breakaway government. Kosovo is now recognised by 71 countries, including the United States and most European nations.

Jeremic and UN envoy to Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, stressed that tensions have heightened in northern Kosovo, the ethnic Serb dominated area.

"Inter-ethnic relations in northern Kosovo appear to be deteriorating," said Zannier. "While overall the situation is stable, the continuing incidents in northern Kosovo have highlighted the strong potential for instability there."

Jeremic complained about the stoning of pilgrims heading for the inauguration of Patriarch Irinej as head of the Serbian Orthodox church in the historic city of Pec, which is in Kosovo.

"This kind of incident can only serve to enflame the passions of extremists on both sides," he said.

The Serbian minister said any provocation in northern Kosovo while the two sides try to organise negotiations "unilaterally or through the use of force would dramatically -- perhaps fatally -- undermine the dialogue”.

Bureau Report

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