Kosovo Serb Councils Sworn in by Kouchner

Published November 20th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Bernard Kouchner, Kosovo's chief UN administrator, on Monday oversaw the swearing in of not elected councilors in this Serb-majority town where voters boycotted last month's local poll. 

"Your appointment has been made as an interim measure with the aim of enabling your municipality to function properly and serve the interests of its citizens until a day when democratic elections could take place," he said. 

The trip was the first Kouchner had made during his 18-month-old mandate to Leposavic, an area in the far north of Kosovo peopled almost entirely by Serbs, many of whom are fiercely opposed to UN rule. 

Fourteen of the 17 councilors named by Kouchner were sworn in front of the UN banner and that of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at the town's cultural center. Thirteen councilors were Serb and one a Bosniak. 

One Serb was unable to attend and two ethnic Albanian councilors boycotted the ceremony because they "were not yet convinced of the utility" of the municipal assembly, a Kouchner aide told AFP. 

Some 97 percent of Leposavic's 18,000 inhabitants are Serb, and less than one percent ethnic Albanian. Ethnic Albanians are in the majority in the rest of Kosovo south of Leposavic and two neighboring Serb municipalities. 

Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since June last year, when a NATO air campaign forced mainly-Serb Yugoslav forces to break off an attempt to put down an ethnic Albanian separatist rebellion. 

On October 28 this year the Albanians voted in UN-run municipal elections, seeing them as a first step towards eventual independence, but the province's remaining Serb minority boycotted the poll, leaving Leposavic and nearby Zvecan and Zubin Potok without elected representatives. 

Inaugural ceremonies of not elected councilors were to be held in the other two Serb municipalities at the same time as the one held in Leposavic, UN spokeswoman Claire Trevena said. 

Kouchner has said that by-elections will be held "as soon as possible" in these areas to elect Serbs if the population decides to sign up to a voter register, but no date has been set -- LEPOSAVIC (AFP)  




© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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