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news 26 Nov 13

South Serbia Albanians Quit Talks with Govt

Ethnic Albanians in South Serbia have quit talks with the government after it rejected their proposal on re-establishing local courts and prosecutor's offices in the area.

BIRN
Belgrade

Riza Halimi, a Serbian parliamentarian and leader of the South Serbia Party for Democratic Action, said ethnic Albanians in the region have quit talks with the government on resolving problems in the volatile border area.

They ended talks after Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic rejected the amendments that the Albanian parties had proposed to the current law on courts and prosecutor's offices, Hailimi said.

The Albanian community chiefs wanted basic courts, prosecutor's offices and misdemeanor courts re-established again in the towns of Presevo and Bujanovac along with units of the Higher Court, which is based in nearby Vranje.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said the Albanians were unwise to end talks with the government, "because they had no one else to make agreements with", as he put it.

Zoran Stankovic, head of the government's Coordinating Body for Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja, also condemned the move as folly.  "The state will not yield to blackmail," Stankovic said.

The south of Serbia is home to 50,000 or so ethnic Albanians who live on the border with mainly Albanian Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.

In 2001, the region saw an armed conflict between the security forces and Albanian rebels, which ended with the help of the international community and NATO.

Armed conflict has not returned since then, but discontent remains high, especially since the authorities in January removed a monument erected last November to the rebel fighters in 2001, in the Albanian stronghold of Presevo.

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