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Kosovo: UN Official Warns Of Action Against Kosovars Blocking Reforms

The head of the UN mission in Kosovo says he is prepared to use disciplinary measures to ensure compliance by local officials with UN guidelines on security, minority rights, and rule of law. Soren Jessen-Petersen told the UN Security Council on 29 November that ethnic Albanian authorities have made uneven progress in the past three months, but says they can still demonstrate a commitment to reforms in time for the planned mid-2005 review by the council. He also urged Kosovo Serbs to participate in talks on improving their future prospects through measures such as decentralization of local government.

United Nations, 29 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The UN administrator of Kosovo says he will consider enforcing sanctions against local leaders, if necessary, to make sure they carry out reforms aimed at building a multiethnic society.

Soren Jessen-Petersen's remarks reflected the urgency of his task in trying to expedite reforms and prepare the ground for possible consideration of Kosovo's final status as early as next year.

He said in his first report to the UN Security Council that Kosovar leaders face disciplinary action from his office if they obstruct or fail to improve key areas such as minority rights, freedom of movement, and security.

The ethnic Albanian-dominated local government, he said, must show it is serious about measures such as safeguarding the return of displaced persons.

"UNMIK and [NATO-led] KFOR are now better positioned to provide protection, but only Kosovo Albanian leaders and society can and must effectively dispel the need for such protection and create true security," Jessen-Petersen said.

Jessen-Petersen said he expects the new, mainly Kosovo Albanian government currently being formed to act immediately to complete work on reconstructing homes and religious sites damaged in ethnic violence in March.
Jessen-Petersen urged Kosovo Serbs to become engaged in local governing structures, expressing regret for their failure to participate in elections last month.

More than 2,000 Kosovo Serbs remain displaced from that incident. Overall, nearly 200,000 Serbs have not returned to their homes since the UN took over administration of the province in 1999.

Jessen-Petersen also urged Kosovo Serbs to become engaged in local governing structures, expressing regret for their failure to participate in elections last month. He urged Belgrade to take part in a working group developing a plan for devolving power to local governments and improving links between authorities and civilians. But he stressed his opposition to any partition of the province.

"Let me be clear," Jessen-Petersen said. "Territorial division is neither desirable in principle nor workable in a relatively small territory where only one-third of the Kosovo Serb population is concentrated north of the Ibar River and the remaining two-thirds are scattered across the rest of Kosovo, mostly in rural areas."

The Serb official responsible for coordinating affairs in Kosovo, Nebojsa Covic, told the council that the UN mission has neglected the security needs of Kosovo Serbs and he repeated Belgrade's call for granting autonomy to Serb communities in Kosovo.

"Only additional and enhanced institutionalization of the position of the Serbian community can guarantee the survival of the multiethnic character of Kosovo and Metohija," Covic said. "If the Serbs could autonomously decide on a number of their vital interests, their participation in the work of all other self-government institutions would be easier and more certain."

But Covic also affirmed Belgrade's willingness to cooperate with the international community in Kosovo.

Security Council members generally endorsed Jessen-Petersen's plan for advancing reforms in Kosovo. Britain's UN ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, called for "immediate and visible" progress in areas such as minority rights and security.

He also criticized Belgrade for failing to ensure Kosovo Serb participation in last month's local elections.

"Belgrade's active discouragement of Kosovo Serb participation in elections and in the decentralization process does not give the impression of a government committed to improving the everyday lives of Kosovo Serbs," Jones Parry said. "If Belgrade continues to block progress in certain areas, this will not be held against the PISG [(Kosovar) Provisional Institutions of Self-Government].

UN officials plan to hold an in-depth review in the middle of next year of the progress made on the key reform benchmarks if Kosovo's local institutions. That review could lead to discussions of the province's final status.

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