Serbia to resettle refugees in Kosovo

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BELGRADE - Serbia is planning to send Serbian refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina to settle in various parts of the republic, including the strife-ridden province of Kosovo, officials said yesterday.

Slobodan Popovic, spokesman for Serbia's Commission for Refugees, said displaced Serbs would be distributed throughout Serbia in an attempt to ease the burden on the capital, Belgrade. This would include Kosovo, a province where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs ten to one but say their rights are being suppressed by Belgrade. Albanian leaders and Western analysts have warned that rising tension between Albanians and Serbs could explode into violence.

Mr Popovic acknowledged that the transfer of a large number of Serbs into Kosovo might add to tensions, but said this was true of any area in Serbia, which is struggling to survive UN trade sanctions. Officials of the Serbian branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that there were plans to transfer some of the 140,000 refugees currently in Belgrade to Kosovo.

More than 100 people have been killed in unrest in Kosovo since March 1989, and the province's Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, called yesterday for a UN-sponsored military mission in the province to head off war with the Serbians. He warned last month that a revolt brewing in the province could result in a tragedy greater than that in Bosnia.

TIRANA - The Yugoslav Prime Minister, Milan Panic, faced hundreds of protestors when he arrived in Albania yesterday to discuss ways of defusing ethnic tension in Kosovo.

He flew in from Athens, where he said that he had accepted a Greek proposal for direct talks between Serbia and representatives of Kosovo's Albanians under European Community auspices with Greece as an observer.