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Yugoslavia: Pristina's Public Infrastructure Comes Back To Life

Pristina, 2 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Progress is being made toward re-establishing a civil administration in Kosovo to fill the vacuum left when the province's Serbian government fled Pristina two weeks ago together with the withdrawing Yugoslav army and Serbian police.

Hashim Thaci, the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army's self-declared provisional government, has been meeting this week with representatives of the democratically-elected government of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDK) to discuss a power-sharing agreement. LDK leader Ibrahim Rugova, whom Kosovar Albanians re-elected as president last year to a second five-year term, remains in Rome. But Rugova has said he will return to Kosovo sometime this week.

Ethnic Albanian administrators on June 30 entered the provisional government building in Pristina for the first time since 1990. Many were former Kosovar officials who had lost their jobs in 1990 after widespread sackings of ethnic Albanians, which left a Serb-dominated government in the province. Our correspondent watched the last Serbs evacuating the provisional government building late Tuesday, loading suitcases into cars with Belgrade license plates, and driving out of town after dark.

Meanwhile, the oscillating two-note sound of British fire engine sirens has become common in Pristina in the last two days.

Lt. Colonel Robin Hodges, a spokesman for the British KFOR peacekeepers, told RFE/RL that the use of British Defense Ministry Fire Service trucks had become necessary. He said looters have been setting fires in order to draw British soldiers away from shops and buildings that they have been protecting.

The British firefighters are taking pressure off of the British soldiers, allowing them to focus more attention on their street patrols.

Our correspondent also saw ethnic Albanian firefighters on the evening of June 30 in a Pristina Fire Department truck at a sixteen-story apartment block that had been targeted by arsonists.

Other municipal services are also returning to Pristina. City sanitation workers have begun to remove large piles of refuse that had been piling up around the city.

In New York, an agreement was reached June 30 by senior officials from 16 countries who met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to finalize the structure of a 3,000-strong UN civilian police force that will work in parallel with KFOR peacekeepers.

The UN mission in Kosovo also appointed nine prosecutors and judges, including Serbs and ethnic Albanians, to conduct criminal court cases. Their first trials will include some 200 looting cases that have been documented by KFOR peacekeepers. The appointments are a welcome development for KFOR troops, who have been releasing many looters they've apprehended in recent days because of a growing backlog of paperwork.

The KFOR peacekeepers do not have authority to conduct criminal trials, and Kosovo's first postwar courts have yet to start hearing cases.

On June 30 the UN rented eight stories of an office block in central Pristina for its expanding civil administration.