Kosovo Serbs say won't register, won't vote

PRISTINA, May 1, 2000 -- (AFP) The body representing Kosovo Serbs said on Sunday it opposed registering the Kosovo population and would boycott October's local elections.

In a statement obtained by AFP, the National Serb Council said: "Our community unfortunately cannot for the moment participate in registering the population and in elections while two-thirds of the Serb population is still living outside the province."

The document, signed by the head of the orthodox Church in Kosovo Bishop Artemije, added: "Without liberty there can be no free elections."

The National Serb Council was set up in Kosovo to represent the interests of the minority Serbian community in the province following the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces in June last year.

Almost a quarter of a million non-Albanians, mainly Serbs and Gypsies have fled widespread revenge attacks since the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the international peacekeeping force KFOR took over under a UN mandate.

The registering of the population was officially begun Friday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and UNMIK.

The registering process is intended to re-establish a civil register so that inhabitants can be properly recognized as residents of Kosovo and obtain documents giving access to UN services.

A register is also needed to draw up electoral lists for local elections in October.

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