Serbs in Kosovo convened their own assembly in the divided city of Mitrovica on Saturday, in a fresh challenge to the new state's ethnic Albanian majority and its Western backers.(Report: L.Rouy/ G.Avramovic/C.Westerheide)
Kosovo's Serbs inaugurated their own assembly Saturday in defiance of the United Nations and Kosovo's Albanian majority who proclaimed independence four months ago.
The Serb "parliament" draws its membership from delegates elected in Serbia's general and municipal election in May -- a crossover denounced as illegal by the UN and Kosovan authorities.
The parliament has officially dubbed itself the Assembly of the Union of Municipalities of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and drafted what it sees as its mandate.
"The parliament adopts legislative measures, resolutions and has the right to propose for adoption new laws important to the life of citizens... to the parliament of the Republic of Serbia," its statement said.
Thirty of the 53 members elected met for the inaugural session of the outlawed assembly in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica.
Most were from outgoing Serbian nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia and the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, one of whose delegates, Radovan Nicic, was elected as speaker.
The meeting was immediately denounced by Kosovo's Deputy Prime Minister Ram Manaj as "an attempt to create a virtual parliament which will continue to manipulate the Serbs."
He told the local Beta news agency the gathering was "illegal and unacceptable," adding that it will have "no legal effect".
Several ministers from the outgoing Serbian nationalist government attended the inaugural session, including the ex-minister for Kosovo Slobodan Samardzic.
Samardzic, addressing the assembly, said "I am persuaded that Serbia, the Serb state, could return to Kosovo by the intermediary of this parliament."
He told reporters later that the outlawed parliament would mirror parallel institutions in Serbia until such time as "real negotiations on the status of Kosovo can be organised."
"In the current situation, this parliament's constitution was the only solution and the right solution," said Samardzic.
Kosovo declared independence in March and has been recognised by 43 countries, including the United States and most but not all of the 27-member European Union.
Serbia and its close ally Russia maintain the declaration was against international law, and continue to consider Kosovo as a province of Serbia.
Kosovo's new constitution went into effect June 15, paving the way for EULEX, a 2,000-strong EU police and justice mission.
The UN's UNMIK mission will transfer its main responsibilities in the areas of police, law and customs to EULEX, as well as some powers to Kosovar authorities.
UNMIK has run Kosovo under Resolution 1244 since a NATO bombing campaign in 1999 ousted Serbian forces then waging a brutal crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians.
Some 90 percent of Kosovo's two million population are Albanian.
Date created : 2008-06-28