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SG Condemns Attacks On Embassies In Belgrade

Security Council condemns mob attacks against embassies in Serbian capital

21 February 2008 - Security Council members have condemned today's mob attacks against embassies in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, which have endangered diplomatic personnel and resulted in damage to embassy buildings.

In a statement to the press, Ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias of Panama, which holds the rotating Council presidency, stressed "the fundamental principle of the inviolability of diplomatic missions."

He noted that the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations obliges host governments to take "all appropriate steps" to protect embassy premises.

"In this context, the members of the Security Council welcome the steps taken by the Serbian authorities to restore order and protect diplomatic property and personnel," the statement added.

The mob attacks took place amid protests in Belgrade today over last Sunday's decision by the Assembly of Kosovo's Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to declare independence from Serbia.

In a related development, the Secretary-General's Special Representative Joachim Rucker told UN Radio that it was crucial that Kosovo be "multi-ethnic."

"I think it's very important that the Kosovo Serbs are perceived as part of the future Kosovo," Mr. Rücker, who also heads the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said.

Ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by nine to one in Kosovo, which was administered by the UN after Western forces drove out Yugoslav forces amid inter-ethnic fighting over eight years ago.

Mr. Rücker said that the two sides must cooperate and engage in dialogue. "We all have to be careful, understanding, sensible and sensitive to the need of each community and to build on that."

Both Mr. Rücker and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have in recent days emphasized the need for everyone in Kosovo to exercise calm and to respect UNMIK and the NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR.

Belgrade and Pristina had been unable to reach agreement on Kosovo's status, which had been the subject of months of negotiations led by the troika, comprising the European Union, Russia and the United States. That group was set up after a stalemate emerged over a proposal by Mr. Ban's Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, for a phased process of independence for Kosovo.

ENDS

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