OSCE begs Serbs to join Kosovo's election party

BUCHAREST, Jul 7, 2000 -- (AFP) The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued a plea on Thursday for Serbs to register for municipal elections scheduled to be held in the province in October.

"We call on the Serb community in Kosovo to register so that they can take part in the elections," Austria's foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, declared.

Speaking at an OSCE meeting in Bucharest, she said that up to now only 260 Serbs had agreed to take part in the census in the run-up to the vote, compared with the 800,000 Albanians who had agreed to cooperate.

"The OSCE is doing its best to get Serbs to take part in the vote but it is not easy," the minister said.

According to the UN's Administrator in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, Serbs are refusing to enroll on the electoral lists because of "instructions from Belgrade, which are extremely firm and menacing."

Ferrero-Waldner indicated that elections in Kosovo could be held around 20-21 October, and declared that the vote would be "coordinated with elections planned also this autumn in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and perhaps in Macedonia."

Meanwhile the OSCE head also declared that she could not accept a decision by one of the main leaders in Kosovo, Hasim Thaci, to freeze his participation in the joint UN administration in Kosovo.

"Thaci's decision to withdraw from the interim administrative council at the very moment the Serbs have just joined is a step in the wrong direction and we cannot accept it," she said.

Thaci decided to freeze his party's participation to protest an agreement signed between the UN and Serb leaders.

Austria currently holds the rotating presidency of the OSCE.

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