EU to discuss fate of Kosovars jailed in Serbia

BRUSSELS, Jan 5, 2000 -- (AFP) Ethnic Albanians in Belgium won a promise Wednesday that the fate of several thousand Kosovars languishing in Serbian prisons will be discussed by EU foreign ministers, representatives said.

The pledge was made as 200 ethnic Albanians demonstrated peacefully outside EU headquarters and three Kosovo Albanians went into the 13th day of a hunger strike in a Brussels church to draw attention to the prisoners' plight.

Stephan Lehne, an aide to EU foreign policy high representative Javier Solana, was quoted as telling a delegation of Kosovars that, given Belgrade's isolation, there was a limit how much pressure could be brought to bear.

"But they will do all they can, and study the issue at a coming meeting of (foreign) ministers," said Gani Azemi, a Belgian-based associate of veteran Kosovo political leader Ibrahim Rugova who participated at the meeting.

The delegation, supported by Belgian Green Euro-MP Bart Staes, was also to meet Wednesday with officials from Portugal, which has just taken over the six-month rotating presidency of the 15-country European Union.

An estimated 2,000 to 5,000 ethnic Albanians are still behind bars in Serbia, seven months after NATO air strikes ended Belgrade's control of Kosovo and put the Balkan hotspot under U.N. administration.

EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet next January 24-25.

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