Albania urges West to thwart Serb election 'games'

TIRANA, Sep 4, 2000 -- (Reuters) Albanian President Rexhep Meidani on Sunday urged the international community to give a clear and severe answer to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's intention to hold federal polls in Kosovo.

"The Milosevic regime has now started to undermine openly the work of the international mission and the Albanian parties in Kosovo," Meidani said in a statement after meeting Daan Everts, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Kosovo.

"The international community should give a clear and severe answer in order not to allow any games or speculation by a (indicted) war criminal like Milosevic," Meidani said.

Meidani said Kosovo's local polls on October 28 would be endangered by the "growing provocation Belgrade has started and which it wants to stage on the September 24 (Yugoslav federal) election".

Officials from Milosevic's Socialist Party held a surprise rally in the Kosovo town of Gracanica on Wednesday and announced that Yugoslav presidential and parliamentary polls on September 24 would be held in the province.

The move has left the international community in a dilemma over whether to ban elections in a province where they fought to establish democracy or risk sanctioning a poll which could be seriously flawed and spark violence.

Kosovo remains part of Serb-dominated Yugoslavia but has been under de facto international rule since June last year when Serb forces withdrew after 78 days of NATO bombing.

Electioneering by Serbian politicians in Kosovo and voting in Yugoslav elections is likely to enrage members of the ethnic Albanian majority, who suffered years of state-backed repression and believe the territory should be independent.

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