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Tuesday, 10 March, 1998, 23:08 GMT
Serbia offers talks with Kosovo Albanians: Text of report
The Serbian government has invited "responsible representatives of the Albanian national minority" in the province of Kosovo to take part in talks. The government issued the invitation after a session held to discuss the recent police operations in Kosovo which - it said - were aimed exclusively at combating terrorism. The following is the text of a report by Tanjug news agency:

Belgrade, 10th March: The government of the Republic of Serbia at today's session examined information from relevant ministries on the situation in Kosovo-Metohija and, in this context, an Interior Ministry report on measures taken against terrorism, submitted by the head of the public security department, Col-Gen Vlastimir Djordjevic, and his deputy, Dragisa Ristivojevic, the Information Ministry reported.

Police operations were "by the book"

The government said that the recent Serbian Interior Ministry actions in Kosovo-Metohija were carried out exclusively as a means of combating terrorism, which had escalated over the past months, resulting in the deaths of a large number of innocent citizens: Serbs, Albanians and Interior Ministry members.

The government noted that these were strictly limited measures of defence against brazen terrorist attacks, aimed at crushing the terrorist nucleus, and that they were carried out by the book and with respect for the safety of other citizens and their property.

The government of the Republic of Serbia most vehemently condemns Albanian separatist terrorism in Kosovo-Metohija and confirms the determination of all bodies of authority in Serbia to secure respect for the law, full equality and a peaceful and secure life for all citizens, regardless of nationality, in Kosovo-Metohija.

Serbia is making a clear distinction between terrorists and terrorism on one side, and members of the Albanian minority on the other, and calls on responsible representatives of the Albanian national minority to distance themselves from terrorism and join in international condemnation of this evil.

Authorities have nothing to hide

The Interior Ministry has notified the public about all the measures taken against the terrorists. The diplomatic envoys in Belgrade and foreign journalists had the opportunity to visit villages in the Drenica region where the action against terrorists took place, and assure themselves that the Serbian Interior Ministry action was exclusively aimed at capturing terrorist gangs and rendering them incapable of carrying out further actions.

Knowing that the diplomats and journalists have seen the real situation on the ground, and that the authorities have nothing to hide, the government believes that it would be conducive to establishing the full truth if the International Red Cross experts were to visit Kosovo-Metohija and in cooperation with the Yugoslav Red Cross, investigate the rumours published in some media. That is why the government is issuing invitations in this sense.

It is the policy of Serbia not to divide its citizens on the basis of national, religious or any other affiliation. The government of Serbia, as well as all other authorities in the republic, takes equal care of all citizens of the Republic of Serbia.

It will not allow any injustice against any citizen, including members of national minorities, whose rights are protected in the Republic of Serbia in line with the highest international standards.

Kosovo problem must be resolved politically

The government confirms in the most resolute terms that all Kosovo-Metohija issues should be resolved within Serbia through political means and on the basis of international standards for the protection of national minorities.

There is the consensus of all political forces and parties in the republic on this. It is also the position of the international players, which is the best guarantee for its successful resolution.

The government again confirms its readiness to resolve all issues, on which the realization of civil and human rights of all citizens in Kosovo-Metohija depend, through dialogue and political means, and this should also apply to resolving all issues aimed at a speedier economic and cultural development, on the basis of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, European and international standards, OSCE principles, the Paris Charter and the UN Charter.

The government once again emphasizes its readiness to accept that all rights and principles contained in the framework of the Council of Europe convention on the protection of national minorities should be resolved in this way.

Coexistence only way forward

The government will - through its overall policy and by specific measures - secure conditions for a stable political, economic and cultural development, nourishing tolerance and trust among all citizens in Kosovo-Metohija. The government confirms its readiness by the fact that its representatives in the three-plus-three group [Serbian-Albanian negotiations on education in Kosovo] have already - in regular procedure - submitted a proposal of operational measures for the implementation of an agreement on the normalization of the educational system in Kosovo-Metohija.

In accordance with the aforementioned commitments, the Serbian government invites responsible representatives of the Albanian national minority to open dialogue with a view to resolving all open issues, since that is the only way to improve political processes so that all vital issues for citizens in our province should be resolved.

The Serbian government reiterates that the only prospect for Kosovo-Metohija lies in peace, development, tolerance, equality and coexistence, the statement says in conclusion.

Source: Tanjug news agency, Belgrade, in Serbo-Croat 1740 gmt 10 Mar 98

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), 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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