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Vol 2, No 35
16 October 2000
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News from Kosovo
All the important news
since 7 October 2000

Llazar Semini

Stunned concern over Koštunica

With increasing frequency, Kosovar Albanian leaders are raising their voices to warn that new Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica is not a democrat, and are reminding the international community that Kosovo has begun an irreversible march away from Serbia and toward independence.

Most will admit to be happy with having seen Slobodan Milošević exit the political stage, and some will acknowledge—albeit through gritted teeth—that they would prefer to see Koštunica in Belgrade rather than his predecessor.

Still, leaders and people here are deeply reserved about Koštunica, whom they believe is every bit as nationalist on the Kosovo question as was Milošević, and see him as even more dangerous because of the support he has gained from Western leaders.

Local media have continually reprinted a photograph of Koštunica holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle in front of Serbian paramilitaries in Kosovo two years go.

Albanian leaders have intensified their calls for Koštunica to prove he is a democrat and release ethnic Albanian prisoners held since the war in Kosovo and apologize for atrocities committed by Serb police and the Yugoslav Army (VJ) during their offensives last year.

Expressing anger, they declare that the European Union (EU) was too quick to lift sanctions on Belgrade on Monday and should have first considered tying conditions to the move, including the fate of prisoners and the missing in Kosovo.


Kosovo's future not in Koštunica's hands

Albanian leaders say Koštunica's election was not specifically relevant to Kosovo's future because they had fought for freedom and independence. Kosovo's fate, they say, does not depend on Koštunica but on Kosovars and the international community.

It now seems that despite the lack of strategic thinking among Kosovar Albanian political leaders about how to respond to the advent of a new regime in Belgrade, Koštunica's sudden elevation to power has made this a necessity.

It is particularly important they pay attention to the upcoming municipal elections later this month in order to create Albanian institutions with the authority and legitimacy to represent Kosovar Albanian interests in the world, some among them are saying.

After reacting in unison to Koštunica's statement on Yugoslav integrity and Kosovo by saying Kosovo is irreversibly moving toward independence, there were many extreme voices after Albanians heard Zoran Đinđić's comment on the return of Serb police in Kosovo, surely a very premature statement on the part of the Serb leader.

Bernard Kouchner, head of the Uniteed Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), urged the international community not to rush to resolve the status of Kosovo following Milošević's ouster.

"Let's go step by step. At the moment we need [Serbian and ethnic Albanian] communities to accept to coexist and after that to accept, step by step, a sort of comprehension," Kouchner said.

Meanwhile, there were contradictory reports on a Kouchner visit to Belgrade, with Koštunica denying he had invited the UNMIK boss for talks. At week's end, Kouchner's press office said it was clearing up the "misunderstanding" on the issue.


UNHCR: too dangerous for Serbs to return

The UNHCR said Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica call for the return home of thousands of Serbs who fled Kosovo after last year's war was premature.

"The security situation here is still very serious and the possibility of large scale returns is not something we would encourage," UNHCR spokesperson Paula Gedhini said.

UNHCR estimates 187,000 non-Albanians, 90 percent of them Serbs, fled at the end of the conflict.

Around 800 Kosovo Serbs returned voluntarily to Kosovo this summer despite having to live in enclaves guarded by the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force and facing the constant threat of revenge attacks by the ethnic Albanian majority, Ghedini said.


Juan Ortuño hands over to Italian successor

"I will leave Kosovo with a strong sense of pride in the dedication, hard work and professionalism of the soldiers that make up the KFOR team. I will also leave with great respect and admiration for the people of Kosovo for their initiative and commitment to the rebuilding effort," KFOR commander LtGen Juan Ortuño said at his last briefing.

"There is still a lot of work for UNMIK and KFOR to do, and new goals to achieve. Successful municipal elections and their implementation are a vital next step towards the peaceful future of this province."

"There have been significant efforts to reduce the weapon culture that exists in Kosovo. Over 4500 illegal weapons have been seized and destroyed, including some 67 tonnes of arms and munitions; I am particularly proud of our campaign in support of the mine awareness programme," he said.

"There has been a reduction in the level of crime in Kosovo. The transport infrastructure continues to be re-developed. Refugees from all ethnic groups have continued to return to Kosovo."

On Monday, 16 October 2000, LtGen Carlo Cabigiosu will take command of KFOR from Ortuño, who has led the multinational force for the past six months.

NATO's Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR), Gen Joseph W Ralston, will host the change of command ceremony, which will also be attended by Commander-in-Chief (Southern Europe) Adm James O Ellis Jr.


SHAPE re-shapes KFOR line of command

Following a 3 October 2000 decision by the North Atlantic Council (NAC), operational supervision of KFOR will, from the first of next year, be exercised by the regional NATO commander, the Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe from his headquarters in Naples, Italy.

There will be no change in KFOR's mission, officials said, repeating that it remains fully committed to ensuring a safe and secure environment in Kosovo in accordance with UN Resolution 1244.


Kouchner visit Macedonia

UNMIK chief Bernard Kouchner traveled to Macedonia to meet with President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubčo Georgievski and Minister of Foreign Affairs Aleksandar Dimitrov.

They discussed economic cooperation between Kosovo and Macedonia, railroad communications, air communications, improvement of border crossing facilities, power supply, the regional situation and the Status of Mission Agreement between the UN and Macedonia.

The men are also reported to have exchanged views on recent developments in Belgrade.

Also visiting, His Majesty King Albert II of Belgium was, after a brief stop in Macedobia, in Priština to meet with UNMIK chief Kouchner and outgoing KFOR commander LtGen Juan Ortuño.


Special-needs voting programme

As part of its efforts to reach members of society most vulnerable to exclusion from the political process, the OSCE Mission in Kosovo has created a "Special Needs Voting Programme."

The program aims to ensure that those who, for clear and convincing reasons, cannot vote at normal polling stations in the upcoming municipal elections are still able to cast their ballots.


Ethnic Albanian rebels, Serbian police trade fire

The five-minute gunfight erupted Sunday afternoon in the Preševo Valley. Ethnic Albanian rebels said they suffered no casualties in the brief exchange, which occurred on the boundary of the American KFOR sector.

An ethnic Albanian group—the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UÇPMB)—continued fighting Serbian police in the valley after the end of the Kosovo conflict and the arrival of NATO-led peacekeepers last year.

Llazar Semini, 13 October 2000

Based in Priština, Llazar Semini is Kosova Project Manager for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. IWPR correspondent Miroslav Filipović was named European Internet Journalist of the Year.

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Strange Folk


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