Kosovo UN envoy briefs Council of Europe on Serbian provinces final status

30 January 2007The top United Nations envoy in Kosovo today briefed the Council of Europe on latest developments in deciding the final status of the Albanian-majority Serbian province that the world body has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting. “Status will be a new beginning for Kosovo,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Joachim Rücker told the Council’s Committee of Ministers’ Deputies in Strasbourg, France, stressing the importance of a timely resolution of the issue that will help greatly enhance stability in the region.Mr. Ban’s Special Envoy for Kosovo’s future status process Martti Ahtisaari is to present his proposal for final status to the Serbian Government and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian- led provisional authorities on Friday, but no details have been released. Independence and autonomy are among options that have been mentioned for the province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1, but Serbia rejects independence.“Status continues to be the dominant issue for everyone concerned with Kosovo and the region of the Western Balkans,” Mr. Rücker said today.He also discussed with the Committee and with the Council’s Secretary General Terry Davis security, minority returns, protection of cultural heritage sites and the general state of human rights, including the expected appointment of an Ombudsperson.In early 1999, the province was the scene of atrocities and the forceful displacement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians. After a three-month intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), culminating in the arrival of troops, most of the Albanian population returned to their homes within days.But only some 15,600 returns of ethnic Serbs, Roma and other minorities have been registered out of the estimated 250,000 who fled after the withdrawal of Serbian forces in 1999. read more

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UN to help countries affected by Pakistan earthquake

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is exploring “ways in which the United Nations can assist in all efforts required to support relief and rescue operations and in subsequent recovery and reconstruction,” a spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York.The spokesman said Mr. Annan is “deeply saddened by the loss of life and destruction” caused by the quake, which had a magnitude of 7.6 and struck 95 kilometres outside of Islamabad.”OCHA stands ready to dispatch an United Nations Disaster and Coordination Team (UNDAC) to help assess the damage and coordinate the response in Pakistan,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland said today.In Geneva, an UNDAC team is on stand-by ready to be deployed at the request of the Government of Pakistan. An aircraft has been made available by the Government of Switzerland to fly directly to Islamabad later today. In Pakistan, damage to buildings and houses have been reported in Islamabad. More severe damage is being reported in Muzaffarabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar. It is anticipated that the death toll might be severe..The high intensity of the earthquake in Pakistan was also felt in Afghanistan and across northern India. In India, where buildings have collapsed, official reports confirm the death of more than 200 people and more than 400 injured. There is minor damage in Afghanistan where two people are reported to have been killed. read more

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