CEOL
Balkans Contact Group backs guarantee of 'substantial' autonomy for Kosovo

BERLIN, May 4, 2000 -- (AFP) The six-nations Balkans contact group gave its full backing Wednesday to UN Resolution 1244 which stipulates that Kosovo should have "substantial autonomy" within Yugoslavia.

Meeting in Berlin at the invitation of the German Foreign Ministry, the group "stressed the need to create conditions for progress towards municipal elections in Kosovo," a statement reported.

The contact group also condemned "violence and persecution for ethnic reasons in Kosovo," and voiced support for UN and NATO authorities in the province in their efforts to stamp out ethnically-motivated unrest.

Alongside representatives from its six member states -- Russia, the United States, France, Britain, Italy and Germany -- the meeting was also attended by delegates from the UN administration in Kosovo, from the current Portuguese occupants of the EU presidency, and from the European Commission.

Resolution 1244 mandates that Kosovo should have wide-ranging autonomy within the Yugoslav Republic, while a clause from the resolution voted on June 10, 1999, established that a UN administration should take control of the province until the UN Security Council decides otherwise.

The head of a Security Council delegation to the province declared last week that there was no reason to amend the UN resolution.

UN administrator Bernard Kouchner, however, has called for a clarification of the resolution, in particular of the extent of the promised "substantial" autonomy.

Most of the majority ethnic Albanians in the province are thought to favour full independence from Yugoslavia, a claim which is bitterly opposed by Belgrade.



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