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UN: Albanian Gunmen Must Be Isolated, Says Administrator

The UN envoy in Kosovo, Hans Haekerrup, has expressed concern at ongoing violence within Kosovo and in neighboring Macedonia, saying ethnic Albanian gunmen must be isolated and their actions condemned. But Haekerrup also said he was moving ahead with preparations to establish an autonomous Kosovo government within Yugoslavia.

United Nations, 19 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The UN administrator in Kosovo, Hans Haekerrup, says all efforts must be made to marginalize the ethnic Albanian extremists who have created instability in the province and in neighboring Macedonia.

Haekerrup told the UN Security Council on Friday (March 16) that the actions of extremists in Macedonia were an internal problem but said the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo should help prevent cross-border infiltrations from Kosovo.

The UN envoy also said ethnic violence in Kosovo, particularly against non-Albanian minorities, remains very high.

"The levels of violence in Kosovo continue to be unacceptably high. The general security situation has not improved in the last two months. Particularly ethnic violence is high in Kosovo and the Kosovo Albanian population must actively support measures to stop this."

Security Council members also again called on Kosovo Albanian leaders to take steps to end all support for the actions of ethnic Albanian gunmen inside Kosovo and in southern Serbia and northern Macedonia.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN James Cunningham said recent appeals for calm by leaders of the two main Kosovo parties -- the Democratic League of Kosovo and the Democratic Party of Kosovo -- are insufficient.

Cunningham condemned what he said was the common practice of newspapers from these two political parties labeling as traitors anyone who criticized those responsible for the current violence.

"This must not continue, it is irresponsible. Those who aspire to positions of responsibility in Kosovo must limit the influence of extremists and isolate them. They are not representative of Kosovar aspirations and that has to be clear."

Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov said UNMIK and KFOR must continue to press efforts to end what he called the export of terrorism from Kosovo to the rest of the Balkans.

"It is important to stop the expansion of this terrorism, which is something cultivated by Albanian extremists. Otherwise, the international community will be faced by a new and more destructive crisis breaking out in the region."

The UN administrator in Kosovo, Haekerrup, said despite the new threats to stability in the region, he was moving ahead with plans to hold Kosovo-wide elections.

He said he was committed to establishing a legal framework for institution building and had set up a working group of international and Kosovo legal experts to move this process forward. But he expressed dismay at the withdrawal of the Kosovo Serb member of the working group.

Haekerrup called on Yugoslav authorities to engage Kosovo Albanian authorities in a dialogue over practical, confidence-building measures and to push Kosovo Serbs to participate more in Kosovo's legal structures.

"What is needed to further the normalization process is two clear messages from Belgrade: to the Kosovo Albanians that there is a new democratic government in Belgrade which is prepared to take the necessary steps towards normalizing the relations between Belgrade and Pristina; to the Kosovo Serbs that their future lies in Kosovo and that they should participate in the structures put in place to govern the area."

The UN Security Council resolution that established Kosovo as a virtual UN protectorate calls for "substantial authority" for the province once conditions have begun to be normalized. The holding of elections for local self-governing bodies is considered a major step toward that autonomy but there is disagreement on the Security Council about when such elections should be held.

Lavrov and the Chinese representative on the council, Shen Guofang, said today that they should not be held until the hundreds of thousands of minorities, mostly Serbs, return to the province to participate.

But Cunningham, the U.S. ambassador, said the elections should be held as soon as possible.

"We would argue that setting a date will galvanize the international community and Kosovars to make progress on these difficult issues."

Haekerrup said he would support holding elections even if the participation of some minority groups could not be assured.