03 April 2006

Red Cross criticizes Kosovo, Serbian officials for failing families of war missing

Associated Press, Mar 09, 2006 11:31 AM


PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro-The Red Cross criticized Kosovo and Serbian officials Thursday for failing to meet the expectations of relatives wanting to know the fate of thousands who went missing during the province's war and its aftermath.


The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross made the comments in a statement issued after it chaired a fifth round of talks aimed at resolving one of the most sensitive problems between the two former foes.


Francois Stamm, the ICRC official who chaired the talks between Serbian and Kosovo officials, urged the delegations to work harder to determine the whereabouts of 2,398 people, still listed as missing from the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict.


"Without tangible results, I fear the working group will lose its legitimacy in the eyes of the families of those missing," Stamm said in a statement.


The committee also said that since the last meeting of the two sides in October, the fate of 206 missing people had been explained.


"The progress of the working group remains too slow, however, to meet the legitimate expectations of the families," the ICRC statement said.


An estimated 10,000 people were killed and thousands more vanished in the Kosovo war. NATO pushed the Serb troops out and forced former autocratic ruler Slobodan Milosevic to relinquish control of the province.


Since then, Kosovo has remained officially part of Serbia-Montenegro, but is administered by the U.N. mission and patrolled by NATO-led peacekeepers.


U.N.-sponsored talks are under way to resolve its status by the end of the 2006. Serbian leaders in Belgrade want to keep at least some control over the province, while Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority is demanding full independence.