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UN: Security Council Calls On Kosovars To Enforce Rule of Law

United Nations, 19 March RFE/RL (RFE/RL) -- The UN Security Council has called for an immediate end to interethnic violence in Kosovo and urged an investigation into the events that set off the disturbances.

The council issued a statement late yesterday condemning the clashes between Serbs and ethnic Albanians that have caused more than 30 deaths and hundreds of injuries. It stressed the need for ethnic Albanian authorities in Kosovo to ensure security for all ethnic groups.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a special appeal at the meeting for Kosovo Albanians to help restore stability. "Allow me, in particular, to remind the leaders of the Kosovo Albanian community, that as the largest ethnic group, they have a responsibility to protect and promote the rights of all people within Kosovo, particularly its minorities," he said.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who also attended the Security Council session, urged Kosovar leaders to crack down on interethnic violence and prosecute those responsible for this week's crimes. "There will be no impunity for the perpetrators," he said. "Now is the time for responsible Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb leaders to appear together before the people of Kosovo and defend democratic values against anarchy and mayhem."

Many council members expressed concern that five years of painstaking reforms may have been reversed by the worst outbreak of violence under the UN administration of Kosovo. There was also alarm at the backlash against UN and NATO-led forces in the province.

In the divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica, a flashpoint for this week's violence, UN civilian staff has been relocated from the ethnic Albanian-dominated south. In addition, officials said about 100 Serbs were evacuated yesterday from the center of Pristina and other communities by police and NATO-led peacekeepers.

Annan said this week's events highlight the fragility of the structures and relationships in Kosovo. "Despite the progress that has been made since 1999, we have not come far enough," he said. "Mutual respect between different communities is still not the accepted norm that it should be. It is clear that we need to study very carefully the implications for Kosovo's future."

The foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, Goran Svilanovic, who requested the meeting, appealed for a greater international security presence in Kosovo. He said the two days of violence indicate that Albanian extremists are in real control of the province and that local Albanian leaders are ineffective. "They cannot or do not want to go out on the streets and prevent this kind of mass violence from happening," he said. "They want authority -- and a lot of authority was transferred to them -- however, they ignore responsibilities that come with authority."

Svilanovic also urged international troops to fortify the country's borders with Albania and Macedonia. He said armed groups are flowing into the province unchecked.

The foreign minister also apologized for the mosque-burning incidents in the Serbian cities of Belgrade and Nis. He said the government is now fully in control of the security situation.

The violence in Kosovo erupted on 17 March, when ethnic Albanians blamed Serbs for the drowning deaths of two children and began a series of revenge attacks.

The UN mission in Kosovo has been trying to generate a regular dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina to resolve a number of key issues, such as the return of hundreds of thousands of minority Serbs to Kosovo. Without the safe return of minorities, UN officials say, the province will not be ready for consideration of its final status.