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Yugoslavia: Council Of Europe Says Belgrade Not Ready For Membership

Strasbourg, 20 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Leni Fischer, says Yugoslavia currently does not meet the criteria for admission to the council. Speaking today in Strasbourg, where the council is based, Fischer said the government in Belgrade must first seek a peaceful solution of the conflict in Serbia's strife-torn Kosova province. She said Belgrade must not reject demands for the protection of human rights and respect for minorities as interference in its domestic affairs.

The 286-member Parliamentary Assembly is meeting this week with a four-member parliamentary delegation from Belgrade to discuss the conflict in Kosova which has a predominantly ethnic Albanian population. Fischer said the council is trying to contribute to a peaceful solution. The Belgrade government filed an application for admission to the Council of Europe last month.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Bosnia, international forensic experts are scheduled to begin new exhumations today on a series of mass graves around Srebrenica, thought to be site of the Bosnian war's worst massacres. The former Muslim enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serbs in 1995. As many as 7,000 people, mainly men, are still missing and presumed dead.

A United Nations statement today said that the operation in eastern Bosnia is expected to provide "significant evidence ... in support of either existing or potential indictments" by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.