Belgrade pledges voting in Kosovo


A leading official of Mr Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party (SPS) threw down the gauntlet to the international community with a surprise visit to Kosovo yesterday where she declared that Belgrade would set up polling stations in the province for next month's Yugoslav elections.

Ms Gorica Gajevic, general secretary of the SPS, told a crowd of pro-Milosevic Serbs that 500 polling stations would be set up in Serb enclaves for polling in federal and presidential elections.

She also pledged that 200 flats would be built in Kosovo for returning Serb refugees.

The head of the UN mission in Kosovo, Mr Bernard Kouchner, immediately dismissed the polling promise: "If they want to have elections in Serb enclaves, that's impossible," he said.

Mr Kouchner's UN administration is holding separate local elections within the province a month after the Yugoslav poll on September 24th.

The move by Ms Gajevic effectively calls the international community's bluff, for according to signed written agreements, Kosovo remains part of Yugoslavia. UN resolution 1244 and the technical-military agreement signed in Kumanovo before the pull-out of Serb armed forces from Kosovo in June last year state that the province remains a part of the sovereign state of Yugoslavia.

However, the return of some Serb forces to the region, as envisaged in the Kumanovo agreement, has not yet happened.

The main Serb opposition candidate started his presidential election campaign yesterday and prepared to carry his challenge to Pozarevac, the home town Mr Milosevic.

Mr Vojislav Kostunica, who according to recent opinion polls enjoys a clear lead in voter support, is the joint candidate of 15 opposition parties seeking to oust Mr Milosevic in the vote on September 24th.