CEOL - OSCE rejects Serb charge Kosovo Rights conference reinforced 'Apartheid'

PRISTINA, Dec 13, 1999 -- (AFP) The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) dismissed as "absurd" on Monday Kosovo Serb charges that a human rights conference held here over the weekend simply "institutionalized apartheid" in the troubled province

"If one only reads the first paragraph of the conference's final declaration it says that 'justice and the rule of law are the basis for a stable and secure society," said OSCE spokesman Roland Bless.

He said the OSCE's two recent reports on human rights abuses, perpetrated both against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and Serbs in the past year, were "not directed in favor of or against any given minority."

"There has probably never been a larger listing of violations against Serbs than the second part of the report," which catalogues human rights abuses since the international administration took over Kosovo in June, Bless said.

The spokesman for the Serb National Council in Kosovo, Nikola Kabasic, on Sunday charged the two-day conference, which closed Saturday, with "institutionalizing apartheid" for not condemning attacks on non-Albanian groups and the looting of their property.

He said the international community had given the "clearest proof that it does not want a multi-ethnic Kosovo" by separating ethnic Albanian and non-Albanian participants during conference meals, the Yugoslav agency Tanjug reported.

Bless said those members who had declined the invitation to dine at the OSCE headquarters -- for which buses and heavy security were provided -- had themselves requested to stay in the conference building because they did not feel safe outside.

He said the OSCE had provided food for those who remained in the building, but added that a representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, Father Petar, had dined at the OSCE.

Some 40 Serbs, including Kabasic, attended the international rights conference along with around 35 Gypsies and members of other minority ethnic groups.

Bless said the conference declaration stressed that "a democratic society is a tolerant society, to which protection of minorities is central."

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