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UN Peacekeeping Chief Criticizes Kosovar Leadership

United Nations, 13 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- UN Security Council members have stressed the importance of adhering to Kosovo's political-reform plan despite last month's outbreak of violence.

The plan, known as "standards before status," establishes reform benchmarks such as the return of displaced persons and minority rights.

Council members today said UN reform efforts had suffered a major setback due to last month's violence. But many said that the "standards" plan should be properly carried out before they can consider discussion of the province's future status.

Their comments followed a tough speech from the head of UN peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno. He criticized Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders for failing to restrain last month's attacks on minority Serbs.

Guehenno told the UN Security Council that the local Kosovar government's initial reaction to the violence was irresponsible.

"What is clearly needed is for Kosovo's leaders to identify those officials -- at both local and central level -- who may have provided active backing or passive support to the extremists and who may have used these events to further promote intolerance in Kosovo," Guehenno said. "Kosovo's leaders must leave no doubt of their wholehearted commitment to tackle and confront extremism."

The UN Security Council was told that in addition to corrective measures, there must be a collective effort to address the causes of the violence.
Three days of rioting left 19 dead and injured more than 900 people, marking the worst violence since Kosovo became a UN protectorate in 1999.

Guehenno commended the personal efforts of Kosovo's prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi, in trying to end the violence. But he said the collective Kosovar leadership must now act to prevent a recurrence.

"Beyond the immediate measures that are being taken to address the consequences of the violent events and take necessary corrective measures, there needs to be a collective effort to address their causes," Guehenno said. "Kosovo's leaders bear a responsibility in this regard and they will be judged on how they do so."

A number of UN Security Council members said it is more important than ever to maintain support for the reform plan as both a response to the violence and to safeguard Kosovo's future.

Britain's deputy ambassador to the UN, Adam Thomson, said council members were preparing a presidential statement reaffirming support for the reform process. But he said another important step would be for the UN mission to devolve more responsibility to Kosovo Albanian leaders to give them more of a stake in the process.

"If Kosovo is to become a real democracy, its leaders need to learn how to govern," Thomson said. "We should consider giving them a greater role in issues such as energy, the economy, and justice. In return, Kosovo politicians need to make it clear that they buy into the process."

Albania's UN ambassador, Agim Nesho, told the council that transferring such powers to local provisional institutions would strengthen their obligations to improve the rule of law and protect human rights. Nesho also expressed concern about the continuing presence of Serb parallel structures in the province.

"The March events in Kosovo...of course, are both condemnable and intolerable but they should not be misused as an excuse for such parallel structures, neither as an excuse for nationalistic policy nor as an exit from internal political problems," Nesho said.

But the envoy for Serbia and Montenegro, Roksanda Nincic, said Belgrade will soon present a proposal that would give Serbs some local authority in Kosovo to help safeguard their communities. She stressed it would not prejudge the final status of the province.

"It is clear that what is at stake in Kosovo and Metohija is not safeguarding the rights of the members of the Serb community but ensuring its mere physical survival," Nincic said. "In such circumstances, it is difficult to envisage the smooth and rapid implementation of the concept of a democratic and multiethnic and prosperous society."

Russia appears to be ready to accept such a proposal. Russian envoy Gennadii Gatilov told the council that it is time to consider other options such as the decentralization of power in Kosovo, which he said would still provide for a multiethnic democracy.