News 15 Feb 12

Kosovo Government Condemns Serb Referendum

Kosovo's government has dismissed a referendum held by Serbs in the north of its territory as illegal and invalid.

Fatmir Aliu

Voters in the referendum are being asked whether they recognise Kosovo's Albanian-dominated administration, which declared independence in 2008.

"This illegal act, that will produce an illegal and unacceptable result, violates directly the sovereignty of the Republic of Kosovo,” the Kosovo government said in a press release issued on Tuesday night.

"This illegal act by Serbia is contrary to our Constitution and international law. Furthermore, this represents the latest act of Serbia against Kosovo, and its sick ambitions and territorial claims on Kosovo,” the statement said.

A total of 48 per cent of the electorate cast their ballots in three of the four municipalities of northern Kosovo on Tuesday, electoral commission representative Ljubomir Radovic told local media.

Kosovo Serb representatives say around 35,500 people have the right to vote in 82 polling stations in the mostly Serb northern municipalities of Zubin Potok, Zvecan, northern Mitrovica and Leposavic.

Leposavic is holding its vote on Wednesday while the other three districts staged the poll on Tuesday. 

Voters are being asked simply whether or not they accept the "institutions of the so-called Republic of Kosovo".

Belgrade does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state, insisting it remains part of Serbia.

But President Boris Tadic said in a statement on Tuesday that holding the referendum was harmful to Serbia's interests.

Tadic said he understood the need of Serbs in northern Kosovo to express their political will but added that local governments could not do more than the state to tackle the issue of Kosovo's status.

"This move by leaders of the municipalities in northern Kosovo can only reduce the possibilities of the state, and is not in the interests of Serbs in the province," Tadic said.

Serbian officials fear the referendum may damage Serbia's prospects of becoming a candidate for European Union membership.

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