Opposition demands the return of displaced Serbs to Kosovo

BELGRADE, Feb 26, 2000 -- (AFP) The entire Serbian opposition demanded Friday that the international civilian and military missions in Kosovo assure the return of Serbs who have fled the Yugoslav province.

In a letter published in the Belgrade media, the opposition noted that UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which defines the mandate of the international mission, calls for the return to Kosovo of all refugees and displaced people.

The letter is addressed to the head of UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Bernard Kouchner, and to General Klaus Reinhardt, the commander-in-chief of the NATO-led international troops (KFOR).

Since the arrival of KFOR and UNMIK, "the most important arrangements" of their mandate "unfortunately, have not been applied," the opposition said.

"We can talk as much as we want about a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo, but it will not be such so long as (KFOR and UNMIK) do not assure that 'all refugees and displaced people return to their homes in security'," the letter said, citing the terms of the resolution 1244.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees in Albania and Macedonia, who had fled Kosovo during the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, have returned to the province since the end of the war in June 1999, when Yugoslav troops withdrew after 11 weeks of NATO bombardment.

Since then, more than 250,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have fled the province because of threats or violence by Albanians.

Citing reports by international organizations, the Serbian opposition said that eight months after the arrival of the international mission, "Kosovo is still very far from peace, democracy, civil liberties and human rights."

The opposition also questioned the reality of the demilitarization of the separatist Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), officially achieved in September 1999.

The letter was signed by the main political formations opposed to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, including the Serbian Renewal Movement, the Alliance for Change, the Democratic Party of Serbia, the centrist coalition DAN, and representatives of Serbs from Kosovo.

In a comment about tension in Kosovska Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, Zoran Djindjic, an opposition leader, told AFP that "Milosevic is not the only one to whom troubles in Kosovo are convenient."

"These troubles are also convenient to Albanian extremists, who see in them the opportunity to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of all that remains of its non-Albanian population," said Djindjic, one of the leaders of the Alliance for Change, said.

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