Milosevic tests UN rule in Kosovo with prisoners

BRUSSELS, Jan 27, 2000 -- (AFP) Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is trying to upset U.N. rule in Kosovo by keeping ethnic Albanians locked up by the thousands in Serbian jails, a report issued Thursday alleged.

From 2,000 to 7,000 Kosovars are feared to be languishing in "appalling" conditions, seven months after NATO air strikes forced an end to Belgrade's control of the province, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said.

Most were detained -- without being charged -- before or during the NATO bombing campaign, and many are subject to routine torture, the Brussels-based think tank said.

"Belgrade appears to have little interest in releasing these prisoners, who have effectively become hostages in ... Milosevic's efforts to keep Kosovo destabilized, jeopardize the success of the international mission there, and demonstrate that Kosovo remains under his rule," it said.

Though the international community has few avenues to win the Kosovars' freedom, "it must find ways to exert maximum pressure on Milosevic to order their release," it said.

Failure to take up "Kosovo's unfinished business" could wind up "damaging Western credibility in the eyes of many Kosovar Albanians" and harm prospects for lasting peace, the report said.

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