UN Secretary-General condemns Kosovo bus attack

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 4, 2000 -- (Reuters) Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday a fatal rocket attack on a U.N. bus in Kosovo carrying Serb civilians was a "heinous crime" and called on all the people of the mainly ethnic Albanian province to join him in condemning it.

"It is the secretary-general's deep conviction that, for as long as any single community of Kosovo lives in fear because of their ethnic or religious background, none can resume their normal life for which they have waited for so long," a statement issued by Annan's spokesman said.

"The secretary-general was deeply saddened to learn that two civilians were killed and another five wounded yesterday during an attack on a UNHCR (U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees) bus in Kosovo," the statement said.

"He expresses his sympathy to the victims' families and calls on all the people of Kosovo to join him in denouncing this heinous crime," it added.

A woman of 53 and a 65-year-old man were killed in the rocket attack on Wednesday on a fog-bound mountain road in northern Kosovo. Two French military vehicles were escorting the bus with 49 passengers aboard on a regular weekly shuttle between two Serb enclaves operated by the United Nations refugee agency.

Annan also made a new appeal for U.N. members to urgently contribute direly needed resources and police to the U.N. Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which has so far been able to deploy fewer than 2,000 international civilian police out of a planned contingent of 4,718.

The Security Council in June 1999 authorized UNMIK to administer Kosovo, backed by a NATO-led military force called KFOR, after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign forced the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and police who had been oppressing the ethnic Albanian inhabitants.

UNMIK was "working day and night to give the people of Kosovo the opportunity to build a tolerant society, in which the dignity and safety of human life is preserved for all communities," Annan said.