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UN Official  Says Most Kosovo Serbs Have Not Registered To Vote - 2001-08-28

A top United Nations official says that, although some progress has been made, the majority of Serbs in Kosovo have still not registered for the November elections.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno said he remains disappointed by the number of Serbs who plan to participate in the elections. The U.N Mission in Kosovo, known as UNMIK, has been trying to convince Kosovo Serbs to register with only minor success. However, Mr. Guehenno told the Council that recent statements by leaders in Yugoslavia could change things. "Since over the last weekend both President Kostunica and Prime Minister Djindjic called on Kosovo Serbs to register, we hope that now Kosovo Serbs will indeed register in greater numbers," he said. "With time running out, we call again on the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to fully support UNMIK's efforts to have as many Kosovo Serbs register as possible and to encourage them to participate in the elections."

United States representative Cameron Hume said Serbs should take their "rightful place" in a democratic Kosovo.

But Russia's ambassador Sergey Lavrov said the level of participation by Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo so far does "not encourage optimism." Speaking through an English interpreter, Mr. Lavrov said the low minority participation is a direct result of a lack of security in Kosovo. "There is no security, he said. "There is no freedom of movement for minorities in the province and all that is well known. Unless those conditions are guaranteed, it is hard to talk about any real democratic electoral process. The elections in November could actually lead to an increase in sentiment for Kosovo separatism."

Mr. Lavrov said Yugoslavia's call for Kosovo Serbs to participate in the elections will not resolve all the problems in the province.

Several speakers said that KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, must maintain its vigilance to ensure that Kosovo does not become a base for ethnic Albanian militants who want to overthrow the government of neighboring Macedonia. NATO troops are now in the process of disarming Albanian rebels in Macedonia as part of recently-concluded peace agreement.