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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Serbs Refuse to Register for Upcoming Kosovo Elections

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- A day before the registration deadline, Kosovo Serbs remained adamant Friday in refusing to take part in internationally supervised elections until the United Nations enables significant numbers of Serbs to return to the province.

However, UN officials say the time is not right for organizing such a return because of the lack of housing and other facilities and the inability of international peacekeepers to guarantee security.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has set a Saturday deadline for ethnic Albanians, Serbs and others to register for municipal elections in October. The ballot will be a major step toward building a multiethnic, democratic system.

However, OSCE officials acknowledge that only a small number of the estimated 100,000 Serbs have registered.

In New York, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sergei Lavrov, also challenged the decision to proceed with the election. Lavrov told the UN Security Council on Thursday that lack of participation by the Serbs "would distort both the ethnic and the political picture in Kosovo.''

Assistant Secretary General Hedi Annabi told the Council nearly 900,000 applications have been received, virtually all from ethnic Albanians.

Nevertheless, UN spokeswoman Susan Manuel said Russian objections were "not going to influence our plans for holding elections in October. We will have elections in October.''

In Kosovska Mitrovica, the largest Serb enclave, there was little sign that the Serbs would change their minds before the deadline.

"The Serbs from this region will not register or take part in the vote until Serbs start returning to Kosovo in bigger numbers,'' said Dragisa Milovic, spokesman for community leader Oliver Ivanovic.

"If the international community succeeds in organizing the return of the Serbs, guaranteeing their safety, we will change our minds,'' Milovic added.