Russia's Ivanov says worried over tense Kosovo

MOSCOW, Mar 8, 2000 -- (Reuters) Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov expressed concern about growing tension in Kosovo on Tuesday and called for "firm measures" against separatists and extremists in the restive Yugoslav province.

Ivanov, who met U.N. Balkans envoy Carl Bildt, appealed to other members of the U.N. Security Council to halt the spiral of violence in the region.

"Unfortunately, over the last eight months, we have observed the process of forcing non-Albanians from the territory of Kosovo," Ivanov told a news conference.

"Our opinion is that the situation in Kosovo is explosive and it is necessary to take preventive measures to stop further clashes...on our side we believe there need to be firm measures against extremists and separatists in the region. While they feel free in the province the situation wil remain tense."

Russia opposed NATO's 11-week bombing campaign last year against its Slav, Orthodox Christian brethren in Yugoslavia. It later contributed more than 3,000 peackeepers to the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force deployed in Kosovo.

Moscow has been critical of peacekeeping efforts, saying they have failed to protect the province's Serb minority. Ethnic Albanians make up about 90 percent of Kosovo's population.


Ivanov and Bildt said they had spoken of growing tension along the border between Kosovo and other areas of southern Serbia where there have been increasing reports of violence between Yugoslav police and elements of a shadowy ethnic Albanian armed force.

"We agreed that tension is building up," said Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister and envoy of the international community in Bosnia after the 1992-95 conflict.

"The the administrative boundary between Kosovo and southern Serbia is also cause for concern, and there are other places."

Bildt said the talks did not cover in detail violence in the divided Kosovo city of Kosovska Mitrovica. Fresh fighting broke out in the predominantly Serb part of the city on Tuesday, injuring at least seven French KFOR soldiers, 20 serbs and three Albanians.

But Bildt said more U.N. police should be drafted into the region along with more U.N. representatives in the judicial system to protect minorities. He also called on Russia and other Security Council members to work together to bring peace.

"The fact that the political issues are seen as outstanding in the region...makes it somewhat more difficult to resolve these particular problems. This adds to the urgency in working closely between the members of the Security Council," he said.

Ivanov said a political solution in Kosovo depended on greater adherence to U.N. resolution 1244 saying that the region region would remain part of Yugoslavia after the international operation was completed.

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