UN police set new priorities to curb Kosovo election violence

PRISTINA, Aug 25, 2000 -- (AFP) The UN is "readjusting police priorities" in Kosovo to meet the growing threat of political violence before municipal elections in October, the Security Council was told Thursday.

Hedi Annabi, a senior official in the department of peacekeeping operations, said "one of the main concerns in this pre-election period is the recent rise in what was perceived to be politically-motivated violence, particularly against members of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK)."

The LDK is the principal rival of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by Hashim Thaci, former political chief of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army.

"The most serious incident was the killing of a member of the LDK Presidency, who had been abducted on 23 July," Annabi told the Security Council.

"Since the beginning of August, three other local LDK representatives have been the target of separate shooting incidents and one local LDK office has been bombed," he added in a public briefing.

Annabi said that every available strategy would be employed to prevent violence, "from security training for party members to police escorts and/or personal protection in especially high-risk situations."

He said incidents would be vigorously investigated and the UN administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) would bar any candidate or political party proved to have been involved in political violence.

Some 90 percent of the Kosovo Albanian majority had registered as voters by the end of July, but Annabi said that "widespread intimidation from hard-line Serb elements" had "dissuaded the vast majority of Kosovo Serbs from participating."

Most members of the Security Council described the upcoming elections as progress towards the "substantial autonomy and meaningful self-determination for Kosovo" demanded in Council Resolution 1244, which set up UNMIK on June 10 last year.

But the Russian ambassador to the UN, Sergei Lavrov, said that, given the low voter registration of minorities, "the policy of pushing ahead regardless with municipal elections will potentially entail more problems for an already difficult situation in Kosovo."

Lavrov added that though he "couldn't disbelieve" Annabi's assertion that radical Serb elements were frightening the Serb population in Kosovo, it was "probably the least significant reason for non-registration by Serbs."

The main reason why minorities did not want to register "is because of the fact that these minorities continue to feel far from secure in their situation," Lavrov said.

"We have appealed many times to the leadership of the UN and of UNMIK to say that it is not the time to hold these elections," he added.

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