Serbs months away from ending boycottFeb 07, 2000
GRACANICA - Kosovos Serbs are months away from joining the provinces joint UN-sponsored council with ethnic Albanian leaders after leaders of northern Serbs blocked progress toward signing, a church spokesman said.
A decision Tuesday by Serb National Council (SNC) leaders of Mitrovica means Serbs will only negotiate for cooperation for joint administration of the local level, said Father Sava of the Serbian Orthodox church in Kosovo.
The objections came just as the UN Kosovo mission (UNMIK) and leaders in the town of Gracanica on the southern outskirts of Prishtina voiced hopes that Serbs could soon end their boycott of the Interim Administrative Council (IAC).
They have refused to sign up to the IAC - designed to bring local leaders into the running of the UN-administered Kosovo - saying they were not consulted before the councils launch in December.
Mitrovicas Serbs fear joining would legalise the "ethnic cleansing which was done in the presence of UNMIK and KFOR for the last six months when two thirds of the Serb population had to leave Kosovo and many were killed and kidnapped," Sava said.
They also worry it would "help the process of an independent Kosovo which the Serbs dont accept," he added.
He said they wanted progress on the return of Serbian refugees and extra security amid almost daily revenge attacks on Serbs.
He said SNC presidents Bishop Artemije and Momcilo Trajkovic agreed to join last week after UNMIK chief Bernard Kouchner promised them more responsibility in local policing and judicial duties. The IAC would also provide a forum for their views.
"Sitting in Gracanica by ourselves will not help us very much in this respect," he said.
He said that as the Serbs of the Mitrovica region represent more than half the remaining Serbs of Kosovo, the SNC would be obliged to respect their desire to only join the joint administration at the local level.
"We must be aware that we just cannot sit there representing no one. If we really join these highest bodies we must be representative," he said.
But he warned the setback would mean "it is very unlikely that there will be Serb representatives in these highest bodies at least in the next few months."
The IAC, with three ethnic Albanian leaders and one seat reserved for the Serbs, is the centre piece of the UN interim co-administration of 19 departments, two of which are earmarked for Serbs. Sava said he expected the seats would be given to other candidates in the absence of the Serbs.