Presevo mayor calls for cooperation between Belgrade, UN

NIS, Yugoslavia, Mar 17, 2000 -- (AFP) The ethnic Albanian mayor of Presevo called Thursday for a "cooperation" between Belgrade and the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in a bid to avoid a crisis in the tense region between Serbia its southern province.

The mayor, Riza Halimi, said increasing the presence of security forces in the region between Serbia and Kosovo was not a solution. He said cooperation was needed "between state institutions and UNMIK."

"If the regime does not start to solve problems quickly, the only solution in the future would be a presence of the neutral UN observers," Halimi said here.

There have been a series of violent incidents in the predominantly ethnic Albanian-populated Presevo region, part of which is a five-kilometre (three-mile) demilitarized zone between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia.

Extremist Albanians are suspected of running arms into the area and carrying out attacks against local Serb police, who have in turn been accused by ethnic Albanian refugees of intimidation and violence.

Halimi said the situation in the region, home to some 70,000 ethnic Albanians, was "very tense."

"Security is decreasing and insecurity is rising among the population," Halimi, who met Serbian opposition leader Zarko Korac here, said, adding that local Albanians.

He insisted that with the increased number of police, the number of incidents have also risen and warned that police checkpoints were disturbing the population's "freedom of movement."

Korac, head of the Socialdemocratic Union party, said the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was "ignoring the problems" in the Presevo region.

Original article