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UN: New Kosovo Chief Named Amid Stalled Transition

  • Robert McMahon

United Nations, 22 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Germany's former top foreign policy adviser, Michael Steiner, has been appointed to head the UN administration that runs Kosovo amid concerns over the stalled transition to locally elected government.

Steiner's appointment was announced yesterday during a UN Security Council review of developments in Kosovo. Many Council members welcomed his assignment, but said the UN mission faces steep challenges in assisting local authorities' move to establish provisional self-rule.

A Security Council resolution calls for Kosovo to have "substantial autonomy" from Yugoslavia. But Council representatives today noted with concern there has been little progress since a local assembly was elected in November.

Attempts to form a government among ethnic Albanian parties that received the most votes had failed. In addition, there is heightened concern about security in the province after last week's shooting death of newly elected Assembly member Ismail Hardaraj. The assailant is unknown.

The deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, James Cunningham, says it is time for Kosovo's newly elected leaders to show their commitment to democracy by speaking out against such violence and moving to form a government.

"There won't be room in Kosovo's future for those from any ethnic group who support violence and criminality or work to undermine the rule of law and the will of the people." Britain's deputy UN ambassador, Stewart Eldon, voiced similar concerns. He also called upon ethnic Albanian leaders to take firmer measures against organized crime, which he called one of the key internal threats against Kosovo.

The UN mission in Kosovo has cited organized crime as one of five main priorities that UN police and NATO-led forces plan to tackle. Other related trouble areas are terrorism, arms smuggling, money-laundering, and trafficking in women.

Russia's representative on the council, Gennady Gatilov, said dozens of violent acts committed against the Serbian minority in recent months prove that Kosovo was far too unstable to handle autonomy.

Gatilov said terrorists and organized crime networks established in Kosovo during its crisis period remain in place. He said they pose a threat to the entire Balkans region.

Yugoslavia's UN ambassador, Dejan Fahovic, told the council that his government is worried about the lack of security for non-Albanians in Kosovo. He said security is the prerequisite for the functioning of any new institution in the province.

The Kosovo Police Service, set up by the UN mission, provides security for the 22 Kosovo-Serb members of the new assembly as they travel to and from their offices. UN peacekeeping officials say they also plan to increase the amount of security for all ministers representing the province's local government.