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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 14:27 GMT
Kostunica on the needs of minorities
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica
Kostunica says the international community must help
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on Monday asked for international help to deal with clashes between Serbian police and ethnic Albanian rebels on the border with Kosovo.

Excerpts from his speech at the OSCE conference in Vienna follow, broadcast by Austrian TV:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am telling you this: the situation in Presevo Valley, in Kosovo, and in southern Serbia is becoming increasingly difficult and this is of grave concern to us.

Violence is gaining the upper hand again and has assumed political dimensions... It is trying to achieve by sheer force a political solution that the people cannot approve.

The violence is spilling over into the south of Serbia, where only lightly-armed local police are permitted to patrol and where no military units are permitted.

We now have Albanian terrorists there. They are terrorising both Serbs and Albanians.

'Threat to the region'

It is also obvious that neither they [UN or OSCE] nor many others supported the democratic changes in Belgrade. The Kosovo issue is doubtlessly one of the most important European issues at the moment.

We must have a multi-ethnic community in Kosovo and we need help to achieve this

Vojislav Kostunica
It is not possible to overestimate its importance because this issue might endanger the entire region.

As a democrat and as a man who has always supported the rule of law, I would like to turn to the international community and, above all, the OSCE and ask them to help us so that this will not happen.

Kosovo 'must be multi-ethnic'

We must have a multi-ethnic community in Kosovo and we need help to achieve this. Yugoslavia, my country, must remain the most multi-ethnic country in the Balkans...

We must introduce the necessary mechanisms and standards to ensure that the rights of these ethnic minorities are safeguarded.

Solutions imposed from the outside can only be superficial solutions

Vojislav Kostunica
For this purpose, we need a general agreement on minority rights. It is not so much the substance but the way in which it can be enforced that must be the main issue nowadays.

It is a great challenge for the democratic forces in our country, but also all over Europe, because nobody can know already now which is the most appropriate way of action for a specific country.

Dialogue needed

Ethnic conflicts must be settled through a dialogue between the affected groups; solutions that are imposed from the outside can only be superficial solutions.

Therefore, I am for an open dialogue between Serbs and Albanians. There the OSCE can help but it should not act as an arbiter.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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