Serbs opt out of UN council in Kosovo

Jonathan Steele

Wednesday March 8, 2000

Gracanica - Despite pleas from the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, and the US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, the leaders of the Serb moderates in Kosovo again failed to take their seats alongside the Albanians in the UN-led administrative council yesterday.

Bishop Artemije and Father Sava Janjic, two senior local churchmen who represent Kosovo Serbs and who helped found the Serb National Council, returned from Washington at the weekend after confirming that - unlike the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic - they favour close cooperation with the UN administration in Kosovo.

"But we must be able to report some progress in getting Serbs back to their homes before we take part," Father Sava said. "Milosevic's influence among Kosovo Serbs is growing stronger day by day. We must have something done urgently if we want the survival of the Serb National Council, but as the situation [has] worsened, with an organised attempt to drive Serbs out of Kosovo, our position has weakened."

Although the two men are not yet ready to take their seats with the UN-orchestrated council, Father Sava did hint yesterday at the possibility of a compromise, if invited.

"We could attend the administrative council as observers, and participate more or less, though not officially," he said.

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