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Kosovo Report: July 8, 1999

8 July 1999, Number 2, Volume 1

KFOR, OSCE CALL FOR INTER-ETHNIC TOLERANCE. KFOR spokesman Louis Garneau on 7 July denounced acts of inter-ethnic violence in Kosovo, but added that most of them happened in the first phase of NATO deployment there. He said that the situation is gradually improving and stressed that "the people of Kosovo must now turn to peaceful means to resolve their differences." Meanwhile, Ambassador Daan Everts, head of the OSCE mission to Kosovo, expressed his conviction in Tirana that the OSCE mission will encourage harmony and inter-ethnic tolerance.

KOSOVARS PROTEST AGAINST PARTITION OF MITROVICA. About 20,000 Albanian inhabitants of Mitrovica held a protest rally on 7 July on the borders to a part of town inhabited mainly by Serbs. A KFOR spokesman said that there were only minor incidents during the demonstration. A French KFOR official in Mitrovica said that the demonstrators' crossing the central bridge in Mitrovica [which divides the Serb and Albanian sections of the city] was a symbolic step across the point that unites the town. A Stringer reported from Mitrovica that the long stream of protesters left the city center around 10:00 a.m. and marched towards the main city bridge, which marks the division point to the northern part of the city, which is under Serb control. The Serbs insulted and shouted at the protesters, yelling that the Russians will soon be coming to the town. After the protests ended, the place emptied quickly and only French soldiers and police remained to clear away the barricades.

YUGOSLAVIA DECLINES TO PROVIDE VOLLEBAEK WITH VISA. Yugoslavia has refused to grant OSCE chairman Knut Vollebaek a visa to visit Montenegro. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry announced that Knut Vollebaek had planned to visit Montenegro during a trip through the Balkans, in which he will also visit Kosovo. A Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Belgrade officials had made the issuance of a visa for Montenegro conditional on Vollebaek also visiting Belgrade, which the OSCE chairman refused.

ARBOUR TO VISIT KOSOVO. Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia Louise Arbour will visit Kosovo in the coming week. In January of this year, Arbour was not allowed to visit the village of Recak in Kosovo, where Serbian forces had committed a massacre. Tribunal spokesman Paul Risley said that Arbour's visit to Kosovo will be a working visit. He added that Arbour will gather information used in the indictment of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and four of his co-workers, who are accused of war crimes.

FIRST REFUGEES RETURN FROM GERMANY. German authorities have announced that the first plane carrying returning Kosovo refugees will leave Duesseldorf for Skopje on 8 July. The return is voluntary in the beginning phases, and each returning refugee will receive 450 German marks support.

MORE RUSSIAN TROOPS ARRIVE AT PRISHTINA. More Russian transport planes arrived at Prishtina airport, bringing new Russian KFOR advance troops to the region. Officials in Moscow said that, following the agreement with NATO, Russia plans to undertake approximately 50 transport flights during the coming days. Several thousand inhabitants of Rahovec protested on 7 July against the deployment of Russian troops in that region.

ALLIANCE FOR CHANGE TO VISIT KOSOVO. Leaders of the Alliance for Change opposition group, who demand the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, have announced that they will visit Kosovo, soon. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Zoran Djindjic has indicated that it will begin a procedure leading to a formal call by the Belgrade City Council for Milosevic to resign. A stringer reported from Belgrade that about 15,000 citizens gathered in Uzice on 6 July at a demonstration of the Alliance for Change.

The key demand again was the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Zoran Djindjic said at the protest that the Turkish [Ottoman] government had been better for the Serbs than the government of Slobodan Milosevic. He added that the regime may drown in massive protests throughout Serbia. And that it is even possible that the police and army will join in the protests. A new demonstration of the Alliance for Change was announced for 8 July in Prokuplje. The coordinator of the Alliance, Vladan Batic, said that [Milosevic's] Socialist Party will hold its own demonstration on 8 July in the same place and at the same time. He noted that this shows that the regime is even willing to risk clashes between two groups of protesters.

There are also fears that conflicts may erupt in Leskovac, where citizens have held protest rallies for the second day against the local government, but also demand the resignation of the Yugoslav president. These rallies are set to continue on 8 July, and here too, the Socialists will hold their own demonstration. Meanwhile, the head of the self-declared Provisional Executive Council of Kosovo Zoran Andjelkovic said that 130,000 Serbs have left Kosovo for Serbia and Montenegro. And a representative of the teachers' trade union said that the Serbian Education Ministry has ordered all directors of elementary and secondary schools in Serbia not to register children who have fled from Kosovo. This means approximately 50,000 students. Furthermore, it is forbidden to employ teachers from Kosovo in Serbia. Bulatovic expressed his regrets about such a policy, and concluded that the government does not want the refugees to remain in Serbia, but to return to Kosovo.

NATO COUNCIL DISCUSSES KOSOVO DEPLOYMENT. The North Atlantic Council held its regular meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 7 July. Attending were the ambassadors of the 19 NATO member states, Supreme Commander Europe General Wesley Clark and Chief of the Military Committee Admiral Guido Venturoni, while KFOR Commander General Sir Mike Jackson participated from Prishtina via a tele-conference link. According to NATO officials, there are currently 29,000 NATO soldiers in Kosovo, about 10,000 in Macedonia and 7,200 in Albania. Some NATO member states have already completed the deployment of their troops in Kosovo, while others have begun to withdraw part of their troops and replace them with new forces. For example, Great Britain has withdrawn 700 soldiers that were charged with preparing the arrival of other troops. Officials in London said that Great Britain will retain a total of 10,000 soldiers in its sector in Kosovo.

In other developments, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana visited Romania and Bulgaria to thank these two countries for their support during the operations in Kosovo and in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Both countries, as members of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, will also provide a symbolic contribution to KFOR. The Romanians will send a group of radio-engineers and medical experts, while Bulgaria will send 40 technical experts, mostly for transport duties. Solana will also discuss the active participation of both countries in the regional stability pact. Meanwhile, Prishtina airport is increasing its operations. Five planes arrived on 7 July including the first civilian plane, which brought materials for the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). KFOR soldiers are also busy repairing other essential services in Kosovo. NATO officials said that German soldiers have established a fire fighters brigade in Prizren.