Russia and China criticised over Milosevic talks

PRISTINA, Apr 30, 2000 -- (Reuters) A UN Security Council delegation appeared biased after its Russian and Chinese delegates met President Slobodan Milosevic before visiting Kosovo, the Canadian envoy in the group said on Saturday.

"This visit sent the wrong signal as it came at the outset of our tour here. When we arrived in Pristina, we were faced with press reports that our delegation had been to Belgrade and there was support for Belgrade," Michel Duval said.

In an interview shortly before the end of the delegation's three-day visit, Duval expanded on the Canadian UN ambassador's criticism of Wednesday's talks with Milosevic held by the Russian and Chinese envoys in the delegation.

Milosevic has been ostracized by the West and much of the world since being indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal over atrocities by Serbian security forces in a bloody 1998-99 crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatism in Kosovo.

Russia and China vehemently opposed the NATO air strikes a year ago that battered Belgrade into withdrawing its forces from Kosovo and ceding it to international administration.

Russian envoy Sergei Lavrov has denied complicating the delegation's mission, saying he and his Chinese counterpart met Milosevic only as representatives of their governments.

"It's no secret that Belgrade does not favor a process that would bring reconciliation and autonomy to Kosovo. (So) the Russian-Chinese visit did not create a neutral signal," said Duval, whose country currently chairs the Security Council.

"It certainly did not facilitate the work of our mission. We are a fact-finding mission, looking at the challenges in implementing (Security Council) Resolution 1244...(to improve) civilian administration and civil police in Kosovo.

"We're not here to criticize the work of UNMIK," he said, referring to the post-war UN administration in Kosovo.


Moscow and Beijing have also supported the Milosevic government in its denunciation of UNMIK and NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers in Kosovo for failing to prevent post-war ethnic Albanian reprisals that drove most Serbs out of Kosovo.

The remainder live in isolated enclaves guarded by KFOR. They cannot venture out without fear of ethnic Albanian attack.

"The Serbs right now are a threatened community, but it's not a threat that comes from the presence of UNMIK," Duval said, deflecting Yugoslav, Russian and Chinese criticism.

"The problem of security will not be resolved until we get these communities to enter into a dialogue."

Ethnic Albanian and Serb leaders taking part in talks including the delegation and international administrators had lapsed easily into hard-line rhetoric, but had also identified common needs, such as law and order and investment.

Diplomats said NATO powers the United States, Britain and France did not have envoys in the delegation, as UNMIK would have preferred, because they were in a Security Council negotiating mission due to leave for war-torn Congo shortly.

A Bangladeshi headed the Council group in Kosovo, which included envoys from Malaysia, Argentina, Ukraine and Jamaica as well as Duval, Lavrov and Shen Guofeng of China.

Duval said the delegation would probably have two general recommendations when it returned to New York on Sunday to draft a report for the Security Council:

- More resources for policing, an acute UNMIK weakness.

- A special program to bring back refugees - mainly Serbs, possibly by naming a special international representative in charge of returns.

Original article