Kosovo airport to re-open to civilian flights

PRISTINA, Jan 11, 2000 -- (AFP) Pristina airport is to reopen to civilian flights Tuesday after being shut for almost six weeks following the crash of a U.N. flight which killed 24 people, officials said Monday.

The airport, which remained open to military traffic, will receive humanitarian and commercial flights, said Michel Gontier, head of transport for the United Nations interim administration in the Yugoslav province.

Two commercial flights a day are scheduled during the week with up to four a day at weekends, he said.

The airport was shut on November 20 on the recommendation of French accident investigators looking into the crash of a French-registered light aircraft chartered by the World Food Program.

The plane smashed into a hillside in northern Kosovo on November 12 as it was preparing to land at Pristina airport, run by international peacekeeping troops of the Kosovo Force KFOR.

"After closing the airport we quickly realized that all security measures had been respected," said Gontier, who added that the break had allowed renovations to be carried out.

Meanwhile, officials said the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had withdrawn from Belgrade the authority to issue 'Notices to airmen' (Notam), the announcements on an airport which are sent to airlines.

That right was allocated to the U.N. mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and to KFOR on December 24, they said.

The ICAO made the move in the face of staunch opposition from Belgrade, which saw it as a violation of its sovereignty over Kosovo, from which it was driven by a NATO air campaign in June.

The U.N. resolution which ended the conflict stipulated that while Kosovo should be given substantial authority, it would remain a Yugoslav province.

Belgrade issued a Notam last October declaring Pristina airport closed even though KFOR and UNMIK had kept it open.

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