Yugoslav army troops return to buffer zone
KFOR relaxed the final sub-sector of the Ground Safety Zone on 31 May and elements of the FRY Joint Security Forces moving along the main lines of communication made rapid progress, while those elsewhere advanced more slowly due to the potential mine threat, KFOR reported.
"Our expectation is that the return of FRY Forces to the central sub-sector will be un-opposed and the operation may well be completed by the end of the day, paving the way for the people of the Preševo Valley to return home and to begin to build a better future," a KFOR press release said.
Some 1200 troops and special paramilitary police moved into the last part of a once-demilitarised buffer zone around troubled Kosovo.
Yugoslav army spokesman Miodrag Jevtić told reporters they did not expect any trouble from "Albanian extremists," but warned there might be some individuals acting alone who would "immediately be neutralized."
COMKFOR also decided to revoke the temporary movement restriction placed on former members of ethnic Albanian armed groups from the region.
EUR 21 million more for Kosovo's general elections
The OSCE Permanent Council has decided to adopt a supplementary budget of EUR 21,650,000 for the holding of Kosovo-wide elections on 17 November 2001. The money will be used for two core tasks—updating the voters' list and organizing the election itself.
The OSCE's Head of Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Daan Everts, considered this very important, adding that a strong united appeal had been sent out to Albanian political leaders for them to demonstrate leadership, by "bringing loud and clear the message that Kosovo should be a place for all its communities."
"We underline the importance of ensuring a secure environment for the elections and the participation of all communities, and refugees and displaced persons," an OSCE statement said.
Stiff penalties will be imposed on Kosovo's political entities if they break the rules governing the 2001 electoral process. These could range from imposing fines on a candidate to a party being barred from contesting the 17 November election.
Rugova eyes peace in Macedonia soon, denies Kosovo poll threat
Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova said while in Vienna at OSCE headquarters that violence in neighbouring Macedonia would not disrupt preparations for the 17 November elections in Kosovo.
Rugova added that Kosovar leaders would try to help ease tensions caused by an ethnic Albanian rebellion in neighboring Macedonia, even as they prepare for elections for a new assembly.
"Of course as a neighboring country we are affected by it," he said. "But we think that soon there will be a solution for the Macedonian issue."
Macedonia has accused ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosovo of aiding the rebels, although Kosovar leaders have since called on the guerrillas to lay down their arms and negotiate over their demands for greater rights for Macedonia's large ethnic Albanian minority.
Rugova said the November elections would allow Kosovo to enter a "second stage" of development towards independence. "The future of Kosovo is an independent Kosovo for everybody. We should join the European Union as soon as possible as an independent country," he said during a press conference.
Kosovo Serbs want additional guarantees for elections
Kosovo's minority Serbs called on the international community on Thursday to provide additional guarantees as the province prepares to hold elections in November.
"The process of killings and ethnic cleansing of Serbs has not stopped," Rada Trajković, a Serbian member of Kosovo's multi-ethnic interim administrative council, said in Vienna speaking after she and Kosovo Albanian leaders met with OSCE representatives.
She said Serbs were unhappy with an international blueprint for self-governing institutions in Kosovo unveiled this month. Nevertheless, they would take part in the voter registration process ahead of the 17 November election.
"We appeal to these institutions to offer additional guarantees for the Serb community," Trajković said. "The minority have got to have their rights guaranteed."
She added that more than 250,000 Serbs had been expelled, 1300 killed and another 1300 abducted after the war.
Political independence of Radio Television Kosovo
A new regulation established Radio Television Kosovo (RTK) as the sole politically independent public service broadcaster in the province.
"This is a huge step forward. It is crucial that people have access to reliable, non-partisan information. This regulation will ensure that Kosovo has a truly independent public service broadcaster, free from political interference and state control," OSCE Mission Head Daan Everts, said.
RTK will have an independent nine-member board of directors, six representatives from Kosovo and three international representatives.
Increased numbers coming from Macedonia
The total of arrivals from FYROM since February is 19,625 while from the Preševo Valley, 8198 have come as of 30 May, UNHCR Spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort reported.
UNHCR continues to provide its usual assistance. So far, all new arrivals have found shelter with host families all around Kosovo but mainly in the Gjilan/Gnjilane area.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers will start on Tuesday a five-day mission to the Balkans to get a first-hand look at UNHCR activities for refugees and displaced people throughout the region. On Friday, Lubbers travels to Priština, Kosovo and he will also hold a brief visit on Saturday in Southern Serbia.
German parliament broadens its troops Kosovo mandate
The German parliament on Friday authorized German soldiers serving in the Balkans to operate in the demilitarized buffer zone separating Kosovo and south Serbia, close to the Macedonian border, thus broadening their area of operation.
The Bundestag also voted to extend its mandate for a another year. The resolution also authorises for the first time German armed forces with KFOR to carry out patrols from the air. Germany has about 4400 troops in Kosovo and 600 in Macedonia.
And in other news...
- An ethnic Albanian child, Nexhat Kamberi, 12, was killed and another injured on Sunday after stumbling on a grenade in a village in south Serbia near Kosovo. The incident occured while the child played with the grenade in the village of Oraovica, near the buffer zone bordering Kosovo.
- The governing board of the BPK has granted approval for a new commercial bank, Banka Ekonomike, to operate in Kosovo. The approval came into effect on 28 May, said the EU spokesman Mike Todd. Banka Ekonomike will begin its operations in Priština. It is the fourth bank to have been issued a license by the BPK to operate in Kosovo.
- UNMIK Railways signed an agreement with Yugoslav Railways to facilitate rail traffic to Kosovo across the administrative boundary.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross has produced a new edition of The Book of Missing Persons in Kosovo, first edited in June 2000, to appeal to everyone who might have information on someone missing to come forward. More than 3500 persons from all communities are still missing two years after the conflict in Kosovo.
Llazar Semini, 2 June 2001
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