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Serbia to seek international court ruling on Kosovo

Latest update : 2008-08-16

Serbia has formally submitted a request for an advisory ruling by the International Court of Justice on Kosovo's unilateral independence, saying the approach could serve as a model to settle similar disputes.

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Serbia said on Friday it
would seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice
on whether Kosovo's declaration of independence was legal and
that Belgrade would abide by whatever the court said.

Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told a U.N. news conference he
had asked for a motion to be put before the next annual session
of the U.N. General Assembly, opening in mid-September, backing
referral by Serbia of the thorny issue to the Hague-based ICJ.

Jeremic said he had put Serbia's request on Friday to U.N.
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro. A committee of the
192-member General Assembly will decide whether to include the
item on the assembly's agenda.

Kosovo, long a province of Serbia, was placed under U.N.
administration in 1999 after NATO bombing drove out Serb forces
accused of mass killings of civilians in a two-year war against
separatist guerrillas.

The 90-per-cent ethnic Albanian majority of Kosovo declared
independence on Feb. 17. While many Western countries
recognized it, Serbia and its big-power ally Russia declared
the move illegal.

Worldwide, more than 40 states have recognized Kosovo, but
the majority have so far held back amid what Jeremic said was
confusion over whether Kosovo's independence accorded with
international law. He said an opinion by the ICJ, a U.N. body,
could provide "clear guidance" for those countries.

"Our resolution ... does not contain the way Serbia sees
the unilateral declaration of independence," he said.

"We don't want to put countries of the world in a situation
to vote for our point of view or for anybody else's point of
view. We ask the support for this thing to be referred to the
International Court of Justice."

Jeremic said that while the opinion sought from the ICJ
would be advisory and not binding, "I can say that Serbia is
going to accept any opinion that comes from the ICJ."


The Serbian minister portrayed the idea as the way out of
the Kosovo impasse. "I think this is the way forward that has
to be supported by opponents and supporters of Kosovo's
independence alike," he added. "I think we should all come
together in supporting international law."

Serbia, where a new, pro-Western government took office
last month, is keen to join the European Union, which wants
Belgrade to show flexibility on Kosovo and to hand over
remaining war crimes suspects from the 1990s Balkan wars.

Jeremic sounded a hopeful note over controversial U.N.
plans to hand over police authority in Kosovo to the European
Union, which have been opposed by Serbia and Russia and have
split the Security Council.

He said Serbia was discussing the matter with U.N. Kosovo
envoy Lamberto Zannier and hoped the issue could be resolved in
the autumn.

Turning to war crimes suspects, Jeremic said he was
optimistic that "sooner rather than later" Belgrade would be
able to announce that the two still at large -- former Bosnian
Serb commander Ratko Mladic and Croatian Serb leader Goran
Hadzic -- had been arrested. He gave no details.

Last month, Serbia arrested Bosnian Serb wartime leader
Radovan Karadzic and sent him to the Hague war crimes court.

Date created : 2008-08-16