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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 22:08 GMT 23:08 UK
Serb refugees return to Kosovo
Serb refugees
Some 200,000 Serbs and non-Albanians fled Kosovo in 1999
A group of Serb refugees have gone back to their homes in Kosovo, in what has been described as the first organised return since the 1998-99 war.

Troops from the Nato-led Kosovo force, K-For, escorted 54 people to the deserted village of Osojane.

As Nato troops first entered Kosovo in 1999, some 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians fled the province, mostly to Serbia proper, fearing revenge attacks by Albanian victims of Serb "ethnic cleansing".

Unless it is possible to establish the rule of law and security for all communities... it will not be possible to ensure (them) for any community

Eric Morris, UNHCR

Correspondents say the Yugoslav Government has made it clear that it expects progress on returning displaced Serbs if it is to encourage participation in Kosovo's 17 November general election.

Eric Morris, special Balkan envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) described the return as a "test case" for the future of Kosovo.

Houses destroyed

Around 100,000 Serbs have remained in Kosovo , but most are in enclaves guarded by K-For.
Wreckage of the bus
Seven Kosovo Serbs died when a bus was bombed in February 2001

The UNHCR said that many houses in Osojane were destroyed after 400 Serbs fled in June 1999 following the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces.

The UN agency said that it would assist those going back with security, humanitarian aid and repairing or rebuilding their homes.

In a statement, Mr Morris urged the Albanian majority to live peacefully with their Serb neighbours.

"Unless it is possible to establish the rule of law and security for all communities, in the longer run it will not be possible to ensure the rule of law and security for any community," he said.

See also:

24 Jul 01 | Europe
Bush rallies Kosovo troops
03 May 00 | Europe
Serbs split over refugee returns
23 Mar 00 | Europe
Bleak outlook for Serb refugees
04 Feb 00 | Europe
Analysis: Protecting the Serbs
22 Sep 99 | World
Nato assesses Kosovo lessons
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