[JURIST] The Serbian parliament approved a new draft constitution [press release; text in Serbian, DOC] for the country Saturday declaring Kosovo [JURIST news archive] part of Serbia. The parliament's unanimous support for the draft, which still needs to be approved by a majority of voters, reflects the country's opposition to independence [Foreign Affairs report] for the province. The preamble to the new charter reads:
Starting from the fact that Kosovo-Metohija is a constituent part of Serbias territory and that it has essential autonomy within the sovereign Serbian state, that all state organs are bound by the Constitution to represent and protect Serbias state interests in Kosovo-Metohija in all interior and foreign political relations, the citizens of Serbia hereby pass the Constitution of the Republic of SerbiaSerbian authority over Kosovo has been controversial [JURIST report] since 1999, when a NATO [official website] bombing campaign drove Serbian forces out of Kosovo [BBC timeline] after reports of mass "ethnic cleansing" that displaced some 1.5 million ethic Albanians [US State Dept. report] at the alleged direction of then-Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. Though the United Nations has administered Kosovo [UNMIK website] since that time, the province was never formally severed from Serbia and Serbian officials continue to claim that the region is an "integral and historic" [JURIST report] part of the Serbian state. The majority Albanian community now firmly re-entrenched there has called for independence. A national vote on the new constitution is scheduled for Oct. 28 to 29. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage, and from Belgrade, B92 has local coverage.