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Kosovo Report: July 16, 1999

16 July 1999, Number 8, Volume 1

RUGOVA VISITS PRISHTINA. Moderate Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova visited Prishtina for several hours on 15 July after continuing criticism of his long exile in Western countries. At the UN Mission in Kosovo, several thousand Kosovar Albanians organized a warm welcome for Rugova, who arrived with U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill.

Rugova said at a press conference that it is the main objective of the people and political groups of Kosovo to cooperate with the international community. He added that another objective is the economic, democratic and social reconstruction of Kosovo and especially the building of pluralism in Kosovo. Asked, when new elections may be held in Kosovo, Rugova said that this could happen after some months. Asked whether he still considers himself the President of the Kosovar Albanians, Rugova responded positively, and pledged to cooperate with the international community.

UN Special Representative for Kosovo Bernard Kouchner also arrived in Prishtina on 15 July to take over the mission from Sergio Vieira de Mello. There he met with Rugova. Kouchner said that real peace in the region is still a long way off. He stressed that the international community must make attempts to convince both ethnic Albanians and Serbs that democracy in Kosovo can be a success.

THACI SATISFIED WITH RUGOVA RETURN. Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) leader Hashim Thaci expressed his satisfaction over the return of Ibrahim Rugova. In an interview given to AFP, he said that "there is enough space in Kosovo for Rugova." He added: "I'm going to listen to him [and] his opinion about the future of Kosovo."

MACEDONIA TO OPEN ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITY. Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov said in Skopje on 15 July that Macedonia will allow the opening of an Albanian-language university. He added that each individual has the right to education in his mother tongue, including to higher education. Attempts by Macedonian Albanians to open their own university in Tetovo in 1994 were hindered by the authorities then, who argued that such a university is tantamount to secession.

LARGE NUMBERS OF LAND MINE VICTIMS IN KOSOVO. In the last month, 150 people have been injured or killed by land mines, according to a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva on 15 July. Three-fourths of the victims are under 24 years of age, while half of the patients in the hospitals of Prizren and Gjakova are mine victims.

At a press conference in Prishtina, the Italian commander of KFOR's Western sector said that 23 mass-graves have been discovered in that sector. He added that at least 748 Albanians were killed in his sector during the Serbian offensive, but the actual number is believed to be higher. The general said that 75 percent of the houses in that region had been systematically destroyed.

UN CONCERNED OVER CONTINUING VIOLENCE. UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello said in Prishtina on 15 July that he is alarmed over the high degree of violence against minorities that still continues in Kosovo. He stressed that "killings, kidnappings, forced expulsions, house burnings and looting are a daily occurrence."

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES WAR-TIME DECREES. The Serbian Parliament on 15 July voted to transfer a number of war-time decrees by the Serbian President into proper laws. The opposition criticized that move. Serbian Renewal Movement legislators did not participate in the parliamentary session. Representatives of the Vojvodina coalition also left the Parliament during the vote confirming the decrees. While the parliamentary session was broadcast on television, there was an interruption of sound while Vojvodina coalition leader Dragan Veselinov was speaking. Instead, his voice was replaced by that of a commentator. Among other things, Veselinov said that transferring the decrees into law de facto means maintaining a state of war in the country. Veselinov said: "We refuse to confirm these decrees because we voted against the war in the Serbian Parliament. We voted for the Rambouillet agreement and for the arrival of international forces in Kosovo."

Meanwhile a strong anti-government protest took place on 14 July in Subotica. The Hungarian Alliance of Vojvodina organized the protest, in which around 10,000 people participated. Alliance for Change leaders and other opposition party representatives also addressed the demonstration. A small group of Milosevic supporters tried to stir clashes with the protesters, but police hindered them.

Vesna Pesic from the Civic Alliance of Serbia said that Serbia has no future as long as indicted war criminals are in its leadership. Other protest demonstrations are now taking place on a daily basis in Leskovac and Valjevo. Meanwhile, Democratic Party representatives said that Milosevic supporters attacked a gathering of opposition activists on 15 July, who were collecting signatures in Belgrade for the resignation of Milosevic. Several opposition activists were injured and had to be hospitalized.

ALBANIAN PREMIER PLEDGES FAST PRIVATIZATION. Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 15 July that the Albanian government is resolved to accelerate the privatization of key industries in that country. The enterprises to be privatized include mines, telecommunications, energy, and the banking system.