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Kosovo Report: July 19, 1999

19 July 1999, Number 9, Volume 1

WHAT DID THE TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL FOR KOSOVO AGREE ON? On 16 July in Prishtina, the UN took an important step towards the building of democratic institutions in Kosovo with the first meeting of the transitional council of Kosovo. The council meeting included UN officials and representatives of the Kosovo Serbs and Albanians as well as from the Turkish and Slav Muslim minorities. UN spokesman Kevin Kennedy told RFE/RL that the participants reached agreement about a procedure for recruiting people into the police service for Kosovo, which will be controlled by the UN.

He added that they also agreed on confidence-building measures between the Serbian and Albanian communities, including visits to different parts of Kosovo by joint commissions of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), KFOR, Serbs and Albanians to assess the needs of the population. The participants also agreed that it is necessary to restart the broadcasts of Radio and Television Prishtina.

Kennedy said that the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) did not participate in the meeting. He said that the LDK's absence was a "disappointment," but added: "We hope, however, that they will come in the future." Kennedy stressed that the council will ensure the direct participation of all ethnic groups and political parties of Kosovo in the decision-finding process. He added that it will be difficult to imagine talks about the future of Kosovo without the participation of the LDK.

Kennedy made clear that the council is a consultative and not a decision-making body. It will gather information and give advice for the UNMIK administration, which will then make decisions on all questions. It is not a body that votes on different questions. The council will function on the basis of consensus. For questions for which there is no consensus, however, the UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner will take decisions.

After the meeting of the council Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic and several Serbian republican ministers met with the ethnic Serbian members of the transitional council of Kosovo on 18 July. Members of the Serbian communities of Kosovo also participated in the meeting. The Serbian officials pledged to create a Serbian National Assembly for Kosovo with the aim to protect Serbian national interests in Kosovo.

ALBANIAN DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER SURPRISED ABOUT RUGOVA LEAVING. The quick return of moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova from Kosovo to Italy has been greeted with surprise by most Albanian politicians. Parliamentary deputy speaker Namik Dokle recalled that Rugova was the last Kosovar politician to return to Kosovo in the first place: "It was time for Rugova to return to Kosovo. Of course one says better late than never, but there are doubts whether he is able to fill [a vacuum] in Kosovo's political life. Such a [short-lived] return does not seem reasonable. We may be able to comment better on that after Rugova has explained his motives for that move himself, rather than developing our political imagination prematurely now."

FRENCH KFOR SOLDIERS DISCOVER MASS GRAVE. French KFOR soldiers found a mass grave containing the bodies of 26 people in the mountains southeast of Skenderaj on 18 July. According to a French KFOR spokesman, each of the 26 victims was shot in the head at close range. Meanwhile, British forces have exhumed 20 bodies from a mass grave in the village of Llukar near Prishtina. So far, investigators have identified 14 of them by means of their personal documents.

Another mass grave in the nearby village of Makovc -- where according to local inhabitants about 18 people were killed -- has not been opened so far. The exact number of victims in that region is not known, but eyewitnesses in Llukar estimate that around 150 people were killed by Serbian paramilitaries between 15 and 21 April.

KOUCHNER URGES FAST POLICE DEPLOYMENT. UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner visited several cities in Kosovo on 18 July and called for the immediate deployment of an international police force to help establish security in the region. He said in Prishtina that it is essential that all countries understand that they have to help Kosovo as quickly as possible, and that the protection of ethnic minorities in Kosovo is a question of urgency.

HILL PLEDGES STRONG U.S. ENGAGEMENT. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill said in Sofia on 18 July that the U.S. will increase its activities in the Balkans in order to support European efforts to stabilize and rebuild the region. He told Bulgarian state-run radio that we will be witnesses of a strong American policy in the Balkans in the near future, but he did not elaborate on the details of these plans.

VILLAGER KILLED BY MINE. One person died and a second was injured in an explosion near the village of Lipjan on 17 July. The blast occurred when a villager was cutting wood in the hills around his house. KFOR soldiers brought the injured person to a medical center. KFOR officials again warned the inhabitants of Kosovo to pay special attention when working around their houses and to alert KFOR if they find anything suspicious.

YUGOSLAV GENERAL SLAMS OPPOSITION. In a sign of support for the Yugoslav leadership, army chief Dragoljub Ojdanic said in Nova Varos on 17 July that the opposition, which has been demanding the resignation of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, is creating a new catastrophe and can not count on the support of the people. Ojdanic is one of the five Yugoslav officials, including Milosevic, who have been indicted for war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

RESERVISTS END PROTESTS... Yugoslav Army reservists have ended their three-day protests in Nis on 18 July, but warned that they will take "radical measures", if the Yugoslav authorities do not pay them within ten days. Commander of the Third Army Nebojsa Pavkovic has promised that the reservists will be paid. He added, however, that the government's debts to the reservists have reached $82 million.

...WHILE DRASKOVIC LAUNCHES DEMONSTRATION. On 17 July in Kragujevac the Serbian Renewal Movement began its own campaign for the resignation of the current regime. The party's leader, Vuk Draskovic, spoke before 20,000 of his supporters, and said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must resign from office. "The entire Serbian Renewal Movement wants your resignation," said Draskovic. The crowds responded to his words by shouting: "Resignation, resignation!" Draskovic also presented his program for the salvation of Serbia and Yugoslavia that evening, which envisages among other points the formation of transitional governments on the republican and federal levels.

He said that the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro must take the top positions in the federal government, which was welcomed by long applause from Draskovic's supporters. Draskovic spoke out clearly against taking revenge on the representatives of the government and their sympathizers, warning that this could cause a civil war. A leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement for Kosovo also spoke at the meeting. He said that neither NATO nor the war were to blame for the situation in Kosovo, but the current regime, which according to his words, "has systematically destroyed Serbia and the Serbian people."