Friday, March 04, 2005

Kosovo minister outlines refugee return plan

The Kosovo March [2004] violence will never happen again, while the first return of refugees to [Kosovo's] Metohija could occur by May, Kosovo Return Minister Slavisa Petkovic assessed today.

Petkovic, who is on a two-day visit to Montenegro at the invitation of Kosovo refugees, held talks with Assembly Speaker Ranko Krivokapic and is due to meet Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic.

Petkovic recalled that 250,000 Serbs and Montenegrins had fled Kosovo and that he would not like to predict how many of them would return to the province, assessing that not everyone would.

He said that the Kosovo refugees with whom he held talks with wanted to return, and that returnees will have their demolished houses reconstructed and damaged ones restored. He said that he will try to ensure that at least one family member will be provided with employment.

"Within the framework of the return programme we have very good agricultural plans, with 20 per cent of posts in local self-administration belonging to Serbs.

He said that his ministry has earmarked 14.8m euros from the budget for the return of refugees and that this amount does not include donations.

"With nearly 15m euros much can be done, provided it isn't stolen. With that money you can allow for 100,000 people to return," Petkovic pointed out and said that he expected a "significant" amount of donations.

He explained that the funds for refugee return are provided by the international community's donations with a smaller part coming from the Kosovo budget. [Passage omitted]

Petkovic believes that last year's March violence will not be repeated and said he has the firm guarantees of the international community on this matter. [Passage omitted]

Petkovic said at a news conference that Speaker Krivokapic assured him that the Montenegrin government would help "in anything which is needed" once the organized return of Kosovo refugees begins. [Passage omitted]

Petkovic said that the strategy for resolving the problems of refugees and internally displaced people, whose draft was adopted by the Montenegrin government on Thursday [3 March], would significantly contribute to resolving the status of these people. [Passage omitted]

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