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Over 200,000 non-Albanian refugees hesitant of returning to Kosovo


dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday January 31, 2007

Pristina- The UN administrative mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said Wednesday that about 16,100 refugees have returned to the southern Serbian province since 1999. However, some 220,000 refugees, mainly Serb, Roma and other non-Albanian minorities, remain scattered throughout Serbia and Montenegro, showing little desire to return to their homes in Kosovo.

According to UNMIK statistics, 44 per cent of the returnees are Serbs, the largest minority population in the predominantly Albanian province.

Most Kosovo Serbs live in NATO-protected enclaves located mainly in the northern part of the province.

Many fled their homes after the 1999 clashes between Albanian rebels and the Serbian military, which in turn led to a NATO-led bombing mission that pushed the Serb forces out of the province, making Kosovo a virtual protectorate of the UN.

Fear of another mass exodus of Serbs from Kosovo has arisen in light of the likelihood of Kosovo gaining independence from Serbia.

UN Special Envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari is expected to present his status proposal to officials in Pristina and Belgrade on Friday.

Kosovo Albanians hope to gain independence from Belgrade, while Serbian officials want to maintain sovereignty over the province.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency