The United Nations Security Council is strongly urging the Serb population in Kosovo to register for next month's elections in the province.
The scheduled November 17 Kosovo-wide voting was the focus of concern as the Security Council received a briefing from Hans Haekkerup, the U.N. interim administrator in Kosovo. Mr. Haekkerup told the council that while the level of ethnic violence in the province has been decreasing, it remains far too high.
He said special efforts will be made to make Kosovo Serbs feel secure about participating in the elections. "I fully agree that the security situation and freedom of movement for Kosovo Serbs and also for some of the other communities is not good enough and our aim is to change that through the means we have," he said. "But this will not prevent them from safely participating in the elections because we will organize the elections in such a way that it will be possible for Kosovo Serbs who might feel threatened to go and vote without any fear."
Mr. Haekkerup says Serbs will be able to vote in the communities where they live and work. The U.N. administrator emphasized that plans for provisional self-government in Kosovo will "not prejudice the final status" of the province. The Security Council has called for "substantial autonomy" for Kosovo but the exact details have yet to be developed.
At the end of the meeting, Security Council President Richard Ryan of Ireland read a statement urging wide participation in the November elections in Kosovo, including by all eligible Serbs. "The Security Council commends the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, particularly President Kostunica for their encouragement of members of the Kosovo Serb community to register [to vote] which confirms the multiethnic character of Kosovo," he said. "The council calls on them [Yugoslav authorities] to also actively encourage the fullest possible participation in the vote."
Mr. Ryan said it is important for the Kosovo Serb community to integrate itself into the structures set up by the U.N. administration in Kosovo.