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UN: Security Council Members Press Belgrade To Support Kosovo Polls

UN Security Council Representatives of the United States and key European states on the UN Security Council today urged leaders of Serbia and Montenegro to drop a call for a boycott of local elections in Kosovo in October. The Security Council members stressed that minority Kosovar Serbs can only play a role in shaping local government in the province by participating in the polls. As RFE/RL reports, their failure to participate in the 23 October elections would be a setback to the international community's efforts to build a multiethnic society in Kosovo.

United Nations, 5 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Stuart Holliday, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made a direct appeal today to leaders in Belgrade, echoing the concerns of representatives of France, Britain, Germany, and Spain on the Security Council.

"We look forward to Prime Minister [Vojislav] Kostunica, President [Boris] Tadic, and the Serbian government -- we look to them to send a clear signal that Kosovo Serbs should, without pre-condition, participate in the elections," Holliday said.

Kostunica last week urged Kosovar Serbs to boycott the parliamentary elections because of a lack of security for minorities in the ethnic-Albanian dominated province. More than 200,000 Serbs remain displaced in the rest of the country because of security fears, heightened after the outbreak of violence in March aimed at minorities.
"The international presence in Kosovo should move increasingly toward a monitoring role and less of a governing role."

The minister of public administration and local self-government for Serbia and Montenegro, Zoran Loncar, told the Security Council that conditions would be better for participation if the UN would adopt Belgrade's proposal for Serbs to be given local rule in Kosovo municipalities where they form a majority.

Britain's UN ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, described Belgrade's self-rule proposals as a "useful contribution" to the debate about future living arrangements in Kosovo. But he said Kosovar Serbs must remain engaged in the political process and that Kostunica's recent boycott call was disappointing.

"Nonparticipation will only disenfranchise the Kosovo Serbs at a time when we have seen real progress on their key concerns. The Kosovo Serbs should participate in the elections and should rejoin the institutions," Jones Parry said.

Jones Parry also called for a streamlining of the operations of the UN mission in Kosovo and a greater focus on priority areas such as minority returns. Jones Parry and Holliday both indicated their support for accelerating the handover of some authorities to ethnic Albanian-led institutions in Kosovo, while maintaining pressure for key reforms.

Holliday said the "standards-before-status" process backed by the Security Council should place more responsibility for Kosovo's progress in the hands of Kosovar leaders:

"The international presence in Kosovo should move increasingly toward a monitoring role and less of a governing role. We, of course, would not support the wholesale transfer of reserved authority that the provisional institutions of self-government of Kosovo proposed last month, but the UN in Kosovo can further shift additional competencies to the local authorities or further share these competencies with them," Holliday said.

Albania's UN ambassador, Agim Nesho, recommended moving forward discussion on the province's final status, saying this would help stabilize the situation there.

"We think that it will be useful towards stability that the international community -- along with the discussion of standards -- should take into consideration the final status of Kosovo under the belief that the implementation of the policy of 'status with standards' will advance concretely the political process in Kosovo and further normalize the situation in the region," Nesho said.

But Security Council members generally reasserted their message of May. At that time, they called on Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders to show a clear commitment to building a multiethnic democracy and to protect minority rights, or a discussion of status would not be possible.