PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - The United Nations mission in Kosovo said Wednesday that ethnically motivated crime is going down in this disputed province.
Soren Jessen-Petersen, the U.N.'s top official in Kosovo, "called on all concerned to refrain from propagating misinformation on the security situation in Kosovo, particularly with respect to the Kosovo Serb community," according to a U.N. statement.
"I have noted with concern periodic statements from certain quarters that risk creating a climate of fear and insecurity among the Kosovo Serbs," Jessen-Petersen said, most likely referring to Belgrade officials.
The United Nations has been trying to bring Kosovo's bitterly divided communities -- ethnic Albanians and Serbs -- closer since it took over the province's administration in 1999.
Crime statistics for the first quarter of 2006 reveal a marked decline in potentially ethnically motivated crimes, the U.N. said. There were 19 such incidents from January to March, compared to 72 during the first three months of 2005, the statement said.
This year's incidents included 12 involving Kosovo Serb victims, six involving ethnic Albanians and one involving a Kosovo Croatian victim, it said.
"Whereas we always deplore any attack on any citizen, statements of misleading nature are not helpful and are in fact contrary to the interests of the Kosovo Serbs," Jessen-Petersen said.
"This kind of misinformation not only erodes their confidence level, but has a cascading negative impact on interethnic relations."
Although nearly seven years have passed since the end of the war, the ethnic groups remain divided, with Kosovo Serbs mainly living in isolated enclaves fearing attacks by ethnic Albanians.
Talks to determine Kosovo's future are underway in Austria. Western envoys hope that some form of solution will be found by the end of 2006, which should primarily ensure the well-being of minorities, particularly Serbs.