Kosovo elections must go ahead, even without Serb refugees

PARIS, Mar 30, 2000 -- (AFP) The chief administrator of the United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Bernard Kouchner, said on Wednesday that municipal elections will go ahead this autumn, even if Serbs who have fled the province cannot take part in the vote.

"We will run these elections, even if the Serb refugees cannot vote," Kouchner, a Frenchman, told French deputies at a meeting in Paris, saying Yugoslav authorities had objected to UNMIK registering around 100,000 Kosovar Serbs who had fled the province.

"We are not going to wait for Belgrade to be in the right mood to run these elections," Kouchner added.

Serbs still in the province, mainly in the ethnically-divided northern town of Kosovska Mitrovica, may or may not vote, Kouchner said, but if they do, they will need heavy protection from international forces.

UNMIK anticipates a huge security and administrative operation to register thousands of Kosovars who lost their papers during last year's war and control ethnic tensions around voting time.

"We expect there will be tension, there will be violence and there will even be murders, but everyone wants these elections to go ahead," he said. Kouchner however ruled out any possibility of national elections leading to independence for Kosovo.

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