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UN envoy opens conference on Kosovo's future

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The top United Nations envoy in Kosovo today said that it is time for the province's majority and minority communities to move toward the resolution of Kosovo's status by showing that they can build a stable, tolerant, multi-ethnic and democratic society.

"The time has come for all sides to put short-term politics aside and to get involved, to talk openly, frankly, passionately and constructively about the concrete issues and make the changes which we all recognize are needed," said Søren Jessen-Petersen, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, as he opened a two-day conference in Pristina on the "Future Status of Kosovo." The meeting was organized by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia.

He said the conference was bringing together Serbs and Albanians to discuss security, standards, local government reform, ethnic reconciliation and the resolution of Kosovo's status, in light of the comprehensive review of progress requested by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and endorsed by the UN Security Council.

The Helsinki Committee says it hopes the conference fully mobilizes local leaders to make far-reaching decisions for Albanians and Serbs and to take it upon themselves to carry those decisions through. The conference, the committee says, is part of a larger project, called "Belgrade-Pristina: Steps to Build Confidence and Understanding," realized with the support of the United States Institute of Peace.