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January 12, 2000
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Although violence is declining in Kosovo, the Serb province remains extremely dangerous for ethnic minorities and desperately needs more international police, a senior United Nations official said Tuesday.
The level of violence has declined by "orders of magnitude" since a NATO-led peacekeeping operation entered Kosovo in June, he said.
The international troops, coupled with a U.N.-led civilian administration, moved into Kosovo after a 78-day NATO air campaign ended an 18-month crackdown on the province's ethnic Albanian majority and forced Yugoslav troops out of the province.
After the Yugoslav forces left, many ethnic Albanians attacked Kosovo's Serbs and other minorities in retaliation for the crackdown.
While there were 40 to 50 major ethnic crimes, many of them murders, each week when the peacekeepers arrived, the number has gradually decreased to three to five major crimes a week, the official said, speaking on condition of anoymity in accord with U.N. rules regarding some background briefings.
And while tens of thousands of Serbs fled Kosovo to other parts of Serbia in the first weeks of the peacekeeping operation, the exodus has stopped and small numbers of Serbs have actually returned, he said.
The official attributed the decline in violence to the arrival of NATO troops and United Nations police, the migration of small Serbian communities to larger, more secure villages, as well as a cooling of tempers with the passage of time.
"It is still very dangerous to be a minority," the official stressed. "What crime there is focuses disproportionately on ethnic minorities."
On Tuesday, Yugoslavia, which comprises Serbia and the republic of Montenegro, disputed U.N. claims of improved security, saying the province's Serb minority remains in danger.
In a letter to the Security Council, Belgrade's U.N. envoy Vladislav Jovanovic criticized a report last month by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that "good progress" had been made by NATO and the U.N. Mission in Kosovo in disarming ethnic Albanian fighters and establishing civilian rule.
"The report gives cause for one overarching
concern: the apparent contradiction between the claim that UNMIK has made
progress and the facts presented almost throughout the report testifying
that the Serbs and other non-Albanians are threatened and that their human
rights are being
He said the move by many Serbs into secure enclaves amounted to "an obnoxious practice of ghettoization" that was a "disgrace to the United Nations."
Citing the delicate security situation, Annan has requested about 4,000 international police for Kosovo. Currently, less than half that number are serving there.
"It simply is not enough to provide the necessary security coverage for all of Kosovo in a period of such continuing tension," the U.N. official said. U.N.officials made an urgent request to the Security Council on Tuesday for more police.
Germany has agreed to double its police contingent
to more than 400, while the United States had pledged to raise its contribution
from 400 to 500, he said.