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(RFE/RL) 8 December 2005 -- The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) today handed over the remains of six Kosovar Serbs and one Roma to Serbian authorities.

UNMIK spokesman Neeraj Singh said the seven were killed in 1998 and 1999 and were not members of a single group of victims.

The bodies, which were exhumed between 2000 and 2005, will now be released to their families.

More than 3,000 people went missing during the 1999 Kosovo war.

UNMIK's missing persons office passed the remains over to Serbian officials at a crossing on the Serbia-Kosovo administrative boundary, in the village of Merdare, about 30 kilometers northeast of the breakaway Serbian province's capital, Pristina.

Kosovo is a Serb province under UN administration.

(dpa/AFP)
Spotlight On Kosovo


THE WORLD'S NEWEST NATION? The region of Kosovo has a population of more than 2 million, some 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians. It was one of the poorest regions in the former Yugoslavia, but has considerable mineral wealth and an enterprising population, many of whom work abroad but keep close contact with Kosovo. All ethnic Albanian political parties seek independence on the principles of self-determination and majority rule. They feel that Serbia lost its historically based claim to what was its autonomous province under the 1974 constitution by revoking that autonomy in the late 1980s and then conducting a crackdown in 1999 that forced some 850,000 people to flee their homes.

Since NATO's intervention that year to stop the expulsions, Kosovo has been under a UN administration (UNMIK). The UN has begun to gradually transfer functions to elected Kosovar institutions. The primary Serbian concerns are physical safety for the local Serbian minority, a secure return for the tens of thousands of Serbian displaced persons, and protection for historic Serbian religious buildings. The main problems affecting all Kosovars, however, are economic. Until Kosovo's final status is clarified and new legislation passed and enforced, it will not be able to attract the investment it needs to provide jobs for its population, which is one of the youngest and fastest growing in Europe. Prosperity is widely seen as the key to political stability and interethnic coexistence in Kosovo, as is the case in much of Southeastern Europe.

For an archive of RFE/RL's coverage of developments in the disputed region of KOSOVO, click here.

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