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Yugoslavia: UN Struggles To Build Multiethnic Institutions In Kosovo

UN administrators in Kosovo are working to rebuild civilian institutions in the province. RFE/RL's correspondent in Kosovo reports that one of their toughest tasks is to make sure those institutions represent all of the province's residents.

Pristina, 7 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- J. F. Carter, a civil administrator for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, glanced at his watch nervously yesterday, as he met with the leaders of an ethnic Albanian protest outside the provincial government building in Pristina.

More than 100 demonstrators were blocking Serb office workers from the building. There had been a brawl earlier in the day, and British KFOR peacekeepers have quadrupled their presence. Ironically, while it had been a Belgrade decree that had blocked the ethnic Albanian staff from their jobs at the building for the last nine years, it is now British troops who are preventing them from entering.

Yesterday was the fifth consecutive day of protests by the former administrative staff. With the exception of the one fistfight, all of the demonstrations have been peaceful. But until yesterday, nobody from the international community had managed to find time to listen to the protesters' demands.

Carter, a native of the U.S. state of Texas, told the demonstrators that he would only meet with their representatives if the rest of the group lifted their blockade on the Serb workers. He explained that a busy schedule of dealing with similar problems across Kosovo only allowed him to talk with their leader, Sabri Kadriu, for about thirty minutes.

Kadriu had been the director of public finances in the province until 1990 when he, like the other demonstrators, had been fired because of his ethnicity. Kadriu wasted little time in explaining the demands of the group to Carter.

First, he said the ethnic Albanians want to enter the government building so that they can start rebuilding a civil administration for Kosovo. Second, they want to stop Serbs from destroying documents inside. Finally, Kadriu demanded that Zoran Andjelkovic, the Belgrade-appointed provincial governor, be banned from entering the premises, along with all other Serb workers who are not from Kosovo. Kadriu explained the demonstrators' position to Carter:

"They are the right hand of the Serbian paramilitaries. The main boss in this building, Zoran Andjelkovic, has no place here. It's our opinion that he should be sent to the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague. It's a failure for the UN, KFOR, and other international institutions to allow Andjelkovic to remain inside this building. We have confirmed information that the [Serbs] working inside are stealing furniture and documentation from our archives. We cannot be passive and just watch what they are doing, so our demonstration is justified."

Carter confirmed that Andjelkovic is now living inside of the provincial government building. But he said that there is nothing in the withdrawal agreement signed by Belgrade officials last month that prevents Andjelkovic from remaining at his post until a new civil administration for Kosovo is created.

RFE/RL's correspondent was allowed by KFOR troops to enter the building briefly, but Andjelkovic refused to be interviewed. While inside, our correspondent noted that only a few rooms had escaped damage from the impact of a NATO cruise missile that three months ago hit Pristina's Central Post Office building, less than 100 meters away. Most of the windows in the government building were smashed from the impact of that explosion. But large color photographs of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic still decorate the walls where Andjelkovic and other authorities from Belgrade are working.

Outside of the building, Carter tried to explain to the former ethnic Albanian staff why KFOR troops are only allowing Serb workers inside for now. He said that the UN Mission in Kosovo is based on rules set out by UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which calls for a multi-ethnic administration in the province. He said Serbs and ethnic Albanians must first agree on the composition of that administration.

Once an agreement is reached, Carter said ethnic Albanians will be reintegrated into the government staff over a period of 90 days. He said that if an agreement is not reached on a multi-ethnic administration within a reasonable time, the United Nations would set its own timetable.

Carter told Kadriu that a UN team already has visited the provincial government building to determine what documents are inside:

"With regards to that, unfortunately, by the time we got here, some documentation had probably already been removed. However, we did have a team come in here and identify some key documents. We understand how important documentation is in establishing identity and property rights, and as a consequence, we will be setting up our own documentation center, that will require the assistance of Kosovo Albanians and Serbs to operate."

The standoff at the provincial government building is just one of many complicated scenarios for UN officials who are struggling to establish multiethnic institutions within Kosovo. There are simply too many crisis situations for the small number of UN officials now in Kosovo. UN spokesman Kevin Kennedy told RFE/RL that the shortage of UN staff is the result of the fact that planning for their massive assignment didn't begin until mid-June, when the UN Security Council passed the resolution defining their role.

About 3000 UN civilian police eventually are to work in parallel with KFOR peacekeepers. But Kennedy said only 30 have arrived so far, and only 110 UN police are expected in Kosovo by the end of next week.

That entire force would have been needed to control recent demonstrations at Pristina University. Serb officials at the University are demanding that UN administrator Paul Buckland endorse the creation of two separate schools -- one for Serbs, and one for ethnic Albanians. Buckland is finding it difficult to arrange direct talks between the two sides. With tensions running high, a multi-ethnic university seems unlikely in the near future. Demonstrations by young ethnic Albanians at the campus have been more aggressive than those at the provincial government building. Last weekend, a crowd of more than 1500 tore down a statue of the 19th century Serb nationalist writer Vuk Karadzic. Several ethnic Albanians said they were disgusted that Serb authorities had dismantled a monument to Nazi Holocaust victims in order to erect the statue of Karadzic in the same spot.

The young demonstrators shouted "NATO! UCK!" as they moved on to a stature glorifying 19th century Montenegrin Duke Petar Petrovich Njegos. The most prominent feature of that statue, an extended hand pointing to the ground, signified a line that Njegos had written about Kosovo in an epic poem -- "This is Serbian holy land."

After toppling the statue, the demonstrators registered their feelings about Njegos' contribution to Serbian national folklore by cutting off the statue's pointing finger.