Serb leaders snub requests to register

PRISTINA, Jul 8, 2000 -- (AFP) The leader of the Serb community in northern Kosovo warned the OSCE's ambassador to the province Friday that his people would never take part in elections unless a plan was put in place to bring displaced Serbs back from exile, he told AFP.

Oliver Ivanovic, mayor of the divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica, met Daan Everts, whose organization has launched a drive to encourage both ethnic Albanians and Serbs to register for upcoming municipal polls, in the northern Kosovar town of Leposavic late Thursday and early Friday.

Ivanovic told AFP that he had told Everts that no Serb would agree to take part in the poll until a timetable was put in place for the return to the province of some 210,000 non-Albanians who have left the province since NATO-led peacekeepers arrived last June.

The representatives of other Serb political parties present at the meeting were also fiercely opposed to registering their communities for the vote, he said.

"Serbs will not participate in the elections. We have asked for security guarantees and a concrete and serious plan for the return of Serbs," he said.

Ivanovic also repeated his demand that some 1,500, "a symbolic number," be allowed to return immediately as a gesture of good faith on the part of the international community.

Roland Bless, Everts' spokesman, confirmed that the meeting had taken place, and was the latest in a series the ambassador had held with Serb representatives.

"The reason for the meeting was to try one more time to convince Serbs that it is in their own interests to participate in the poll," Bless said.

Bless said the next meeting was planned for July 13, but Ivanovic said that he would not bother to attend.

"We cannot expect anything from it. If a gesture is not made soon that Serbs will be allowed to return to Kosovo I believe that the ethnic cleansing will continue for two more years," Ivanovic said.

According to the Yugoslav news agency Beta, aside from Ivanovic's Mitrovica branch of the Serbian National Council (SNV), the Gracanica branch of the SNV, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the Yugolsav Left (JUL) were also present.

The JUL's regional representative, Radomir Rojevic, told Beta: "Voter registration is a farce designed to register some 400,000 Albanians who have flooded into Kosovo."

On July 6, according to the OSCE, only "a few hundred" of the 879,137 voters to have registered for October's poll are Serbs. The organization said that out of a population of 1.9 million in Kosovo, around 100,000 are Serbs.

Voter registration is due to end on July 15.

Original article