Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Talks focus on Kosovo war missing - BBC

Serbs and Kosovo Albanians are resuming talks to discuss the whereabouts of more than 3,000 people missing since the Kosovo war ended six years ago.

It is the first meeting of its kind since talks were disrupted a year ago by an outbreak of violence in Kosovo.

Officials in both Kosovo and Belgrade have been criticised for failing to locate, exhume and return bodies.

Most of the missing are Kosovo Albanians, but Serbs and people from other ethnic groups also disappeared.

Divisive issue

The talks are being chaired by the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross.

The head of the International Red Cross' European branch, Francois Stam, says virtually no progress has been made in recent years.

"If you look at the initial figures there was a big step made when ethnic Albanian prisoners were initially in 1999 taken to Serbia proper and then they were released and returned to Kosovo," he said.

"Apart from that, I'm sorry to say, that very little concrete progress was achieved. It's not nil, but it's clearly unsatisfactory."

BBC's Belgrade correspondent Matt Prodger says the whereabouts of the missing is one of the most emotive issues dividing Kosovo Albanians and Serbs.

Some 800 bodies were exhumed from mass graves at a police training ground near Belgrade in 2001.

Our correspondents says many families, though not enough, have gone through the traumatic process of trying to identify relatives.

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