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Yugoslavia: Talks Open At UN On Rebuilding Kosovo's Civil Society

The United Nations, 30 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - Foreign ministers and other senior officials from 16 countries are meeting at the United Nations to discuss what's needed to restore a civil society in Kosovo. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who convened today's meeting, said there was an urgent need to speed-up plans to introduce a civilian police, create an independent civilian judiciary, and offer immediate assistance for rebuilding homes that are not too badly damaged. The UN believes 3,000 civilian police are needed in Kosovo. U.N. officials said today that so far it had pledges for only about 1,300, including 450 from the U.S. It is also seeking administrators to run municipalities and other operations.

Russia's delegate, First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeyev, told reporters that aid programs should be provided for all of Yugoslavia and not just to Kosovo. The U.S., Britain, and several other countries have said they will provide only humanitarian assistance to Serbia while President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power. Annan said humanitarian needs should include the restoration of Yugoslavia's electricity and water supplies.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said today's talks opened the second phase of the Kosovo operation. "We have to make sure that having won the war we are now in a position to build the peace," he said.

In Kosovo's capital, Pristina, the UN special envoy for humanitarian affairs, Dennis McNamara, called on returning Kosovar Albanian refugees to prevent retaliatory attacks against the Serbian and Romany (Gypsy) population in the province.

McNamara said today that there have been increasing reports of intimidations and violent attacks against Serbian and Romany minorities in Kosovo over the past two weeks. He added that many of those being attacked were older people who were not a threat to anybody.

He also called for the KFOR international peacekeeping force to continue improving security for the protection of Kosovo's minorities. His comments come as the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimated that more than 71,000 Kosovo Serbs -- half the province's Serbian population -- have left to seek refuge in central Serbia and Montenegro.

And in Belgrade, Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic has called leaders of the parliamentary parties for consultations for a possible reshaping of the federal government.

The state-run Tanjug news agency reports that the meeting will be held tomorrow in Belgrade. Correspondents in Belgrade say the move may result in a call to the Serbian Radical Party, led by ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj, and to the Serbian Renewal Movement of Vuk Draskovic, to join Bulatovic's cabinet.

Bulatovic also echoed calls yesterday from Milosevic for re-establishment of ties with the world's democracies and promotion of economic reforms within Yugoslavia.