UN Security Council discusses disputed Balkan peninsula

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12, 2000 -- (AFP) The Security Council met on Tuesday to discuss retaining a small force of U.N. military observers on Prevlaka, a disputed peninsula on the Adriatic coast between Croatia and Yugoslavia.

The mandate of the 27-member force expires on Saturday, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has recommended that it be extended for six months.

The force, known as UNMOP, was set up in October 1992 to oversee the demilitarization of the peninsula, which controls the access to the sea from Montenegro, Serbia's smaller partner in what remains of Yugoslavia.

In a report to the council on December 31, Annan said he hoped the two sides would resume negotiations once Croatia finished holding elections.

The last round of talks was held in Belgrade almost 10 months ago, on March 9.

Croatians go to the polls on January 24 to choose a successor to the late president Franjo Tudjman, who died on December 10.

The country will also have a new government, since a coalition of opposition parties trounced Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union and took 96 of the 151 seats in parliament in elections on January 3.

Drazen Budisa of the Croatian Social Liberal Party led the field of presidential candidates with 30 percent support in an opinion poll published in Zagreb on Tuesday.

Annan reported that all Yugoslav military units stationed in the demilitarized zone in Prevlaka had withdrawn by December 11 and that the peninsula was free of heavy weapons for the first time in seven years.

But, he said, "confidence-building measures and moves to increase stability on the ground can supplement but not replace substantive negotiations, which alone can lead to a comprehensive settlement of the disputed issue."

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