Nando Times - Russian envoy says Kosovo's future must be discussed

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (November 8, 1999 7:48 p.m. EST ) - A Russian diplomat expressed optimism Monday that Kosovo's political status would be resolved quickly, insisting that the moment has arrived for discussions on the province's future.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, relayed concerns about the safety of Kosovo's minority Serb community in a meeting with the top U.N. administrator in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner.

Lavrov demanded the implementation of a U.N. resolution calling for dialogue between ethnic Albanians and the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, and he pressed for the safety and security of Kosovo's minorities.

"I would certainly be unfaithful to the facts if I said all these issues are being sought," he said.

Lavrov's comments hinted at the increasing frustration among the region's Serbs, who have been leaving the province because of attacks by ethnic Albanians seeking revenge for an 18-month Serb crackdown.

A U.N. resolution calls for Kosovo to remain a province of Serbia, the dominant republic of what's left of Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanian leaders have said, however, that only complete independence is possible in the future.

The Russians have been pushing their Slavic brethren's cause, and Lavrov's remarks were believed to reflect the Serb point of view.

His talks with Kouchner wrapped up Lavrov's two-day visit, during which he met with representatives from Yugoslavia and the region's Serbs.

"They need to start as soon as possible political dialogue on the status of Kosovo between Belgrade and the Kosovo communities," Lavrov said.

The concern for safety in Kosovo has escalated with reports that killings, assaults and arsons were increasing, despite persistent efforts by NATO-led peacekeepers to stabilize the turbulent Balkan province.

A Serb leader in Kosovo said Monday that about 400 Serbs have been killed and some 500 kidnapped since Yugoslav forces pulled out of the province and NATO-led peacekeepers took over in June.

Momcilo Trajkovic, who was shot and wounded in the leg last week in the Kosovo capital, Pristina, said the Serb community leaders handed over the lists of kidnapped and killed Serbs to Lavrov. Trajkovic has been a key figure in contacts between Kosovo's Serbs and the NATO-led command.

"They (NATO peacekeepers) have not found the kidnapped, nor have they identified those committing crimes against Serbs. We have not been informed that they have found anybody," said Trajkovic, according to Fonet news agency.

"I hope Lavrov can do something about this," he said. "He accepted to raise this issue in the (U.N.) Security Council."

Last week, the number of slayings rose from five to 11 - four of which were committed in the provincial capital, Pristina, U.N. police spokesman Bruce Lloy said Monday.

Also, a Serb man was killed in a multiple grenade attack on a village in southeastern Kosovo, NATO said Monday. And a Roma, or Gypsy, was found slain in western Kosovo, U.N. police said.

Meanwhile, the first 175 police cadets, currently undergoing 19 weeks of training, have begun to patrol alongside U.N. policemen, said Don Grady, the deputy commissioner for the U.N. police. Six of the cadets were Serbs, eight were of other nationalities and the rest were ethnic Albanians.

The cadets still were unarmed, but would receive weapons and bulletproof vests soon, Grady said Monday.

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