[JURIST] Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica [official profile] has urged Serbians to vote in favor of the country's new constitution [DOC text, in Serbian] in this weekend's referendum, saying a rejection of the charter would have "grave and unforeseeable" consequences for Serbia's future. If approved, the new constitution will make Serbia an independent state for the first time since 1918 and also declares Kosovo as part of Serbia [JURIST news archive], which many government critics have said will harm Serbia's interests in the international community. Although still technically a province of the former Yugoslav state, Kosovo [JURIST news archive] has been under UN administration [UNMIK website] since 1999 when a NATO [official website] bombing campaign drove Serbian forces out of Kosovo [BBC timeline] after reports of mass "ethnic cleansing" [US State Dept. report] that displaced some 1.5 million ethnic Albanians. Kosovo is currently in negotiations with the UN regarding the region's future status; UN officials have said the Serbian constitution will not affect those talks [JURIST report].
The final draft constitution was approved by the Serbian parliament [press release, JURIST report] earlier this month and needs more than 50 percent of the 6.6 million registered voters in Serbia to vote "yes" this weekend before the charter is officially approved. Kostunica also expressed optimism Tuesday that voters would do the "right" thing and support the constitution. AP has more.