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Kosovo Report: August 12, 1999

12 August 1999, Number 20, Volume 1

UNHCR CRITICIZES 'TERROR' AGAINST KOSOVO SERBS. UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in Prishtina on 11 August that some ethnic Albanian Kosovars are systematically intimidating local Serbs. He said that most Serbs who stayed in Kosovo are elderly or handicapped, adding that "it is highly unlikely that these people were involved in the persecution of Albanians. But that does not seem to matter to the thugs who are now terrorizing them."

Redmond said that many Serbs received anonymous letters ordering them to leave their homes. Later, ethnic Albanians intimidate them personally and sometimes kill them, he noted. "We are sure that the vast majority of the Albanian population...wants nothing to do with those who terrorize and shoot old women and employ some of the same disgusting tactics that were used against the Albanians themselves just a few weeks ago," he concluded.

Redmond appealed to the political parties and the population in the region to show ethnic tolerance. Another UNHCR spokesman said that only about 2,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo out of the 40,000 or so who lived there before the recent conflict. He added that about 170,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo in recent months.

KOSOVARS PROTEST ARREST OF ARMED UCK SOLDIERS. About 200 Ethnic Albanian protesters confronted U.S. soldiers in Gjilan on 11 August and demanded the release of 10 men whom KFOR had arrested the previous day. The protest ended peacefully. Those arrested belonged to a group of 60 ethnic Albanians whom U.S. soldiers rounded up in a school where peacekeepers found an arms cache. Some of those arrested were armed and wearing uniforms of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). On 10 and 11 August, KFOR arrested a total of 78 crime suspects throughout Kosovo.

U.S. Brigadier General John Craddock, the outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Kosovo, told journalists that in several regions inhabited by Serbs in the U.S. sector of Kosovo there were cases of organized plundering and burning of Serb homes by ethnic Albanians.

TENSE SITUATION REMAINS IN MITROVICA. KFOR spokesman Jan Joosten said in Prishtina on 11 August that "KFOR soldiers prevented in a very professional way an escalation [of tensions in Mitrovica] by closing the main bridge to all traffic. They thereby prevented 200 Albanians from crossing over to [confront] the 200 waiting Serbs on the other side."

The UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), meanwhile, is working closely with KFOR to try to solve the tense situation in Mitrovica, according to UNMIK spokeswoman Nadia Younes: "It is clear, however, to us that extremists and outsiders are playing a dangerous role in Mitrovica." She added that international officials are working on a new strategy to ease the tensions in that city.

Meanwhile, a group of Serbs forcibly entered the apartment of a family of ethnic Albanians and forced them to leave the city. French KFOR spokesman Bernard Bonneau said that the Serbs beat up three Albanians, who were later sent to a KFOR military base along with 13 others, for security reasons.

LDK GENERAL COUNCIL MEETS. The General Council of the Democratic league of Kosovo (LDK) met in Prishtina on 11 August. It is the highest organ of that party between party congresses and met after a break of over one year to discuss the forms of its future activities in the new reality created in Kosovo after international forces entered Kosovo and Serbian forces have withdrawn. LDK sources told RFE/RL that party leader Ibrahim Rugova talked about the democratic and economic reconstruction of Kosovo. When he talked about the consolidation of the party, Rugova favored a stronger activity by party members in the leadership of the LDK. The LDK's news agency, the Kosovo Information Center, quoted Rugova as saying that the LDK will work together with all political parties of Kosovo to create tolerance and mutual understanding in respect for the identity and interests of all political forces. He added that they all must work together in the interest of Kosovo in the building and development of democratic institutions of Kosovo.

LDK spokesman Melazim Krasniqi said after the meeting that: "Undoubtedly among the objectives that the LDK has set is to play a serious role as a large party in the reconstruction of Kosovo in rebuilding life and institutions. Furthermore we have agreed that we must cooperate with the international civilian administration UNMIK and with KFOR on all levels that are necessary in the rebuilding of Kosovo. Also the LDK has decided that it is ready to cooperate with all political and military factors in Kosovo [usually a reference to the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK)].... We have agreed that the LDK must consolidate under the new reality that has been created in Kosovo. I believe that it will develop a profile as a party, while so far it had more the character of a movement. We will activate all structures of the party and that will lead to a regular party congress of the LDK, which will complete that consolidation process."

The four-hour long meeting today yielded no other results. LDK officials told RFE/RL that some party members exchanged harsh tones, criticizing the lack of activities of the LDK over the last few months. Another meeting of the council is scheduled in two weeks. It will form working groups, who will work on specific tasks including that of organizing a full-fledged party congress, which is expected to take place in October.

Interview by Rahman Pacarizi with Rame Buja, minister of local government in the UCK's provisional government of Kosovo.

RFE/RL: "Mr. Buja, you have appointed the prefects and mayors of the towns and communities in Kosovo, but the international community does not recognize them as such, what is your experience on the communal level with the international administration?"

Buja: "We have appointed mayors in 27 communal centers, we also have installed other organizational structures in the communities. We have done a job that nobody else has done and we are ready to cooperate with all international structures who have come to Kosovo and who work for the good of Kosovo. I can not say that the relations with UNMIK are outright bad. They are uncoordinated and we can not influence anything about the appointments of UNMIK administrators in these communities. But we have appointed our administrators. They are provisional, just as our government is."

RFE/RL: "In Mitrovica there are problems. Have these problems come to Mitrovica with the arrival of civilian administrators to that town?"

Buja: "I would not like to make remarks about the civilian administrator there, because we have worked together well. Both we here in the central government, but also Bajram Rexhepi, who is the mayor of the city. The question is not only of military character, but it is also a political and economic question. We can and will not allow a partition of even a tiny part of Kosovo."

RFE/RL: "How will you reach that aim?"

Buja: "We believe with international help we will return. But if they are not in a position to ensure the safe return of the Albanian population to the northern part of Mitrovica, where the Serbs are, we will take that up ourselves, and we will administer and regulate that ourselves without any problem."

RFE/RL: "But what possibilities does the local government have to act in Kosovo?"

Buja: "The local government does its best to coordinate its activities with UNMIK, with KFOR to solve all local problems. So we are ready."

RFE/RL: "On the other hand I have read a declaration in the newspaper in which the LDK said that it does not recognize the local government installed by your provisional government in Gjilan. What is your commentary on this and what will you do?"

Buja: "We have clearly offered our cooperation to the LDK, as it was agreed in the intra-Albanian agreement signed in Rambouillet. We are still ready to cooperate anytime that they are willing to participate. They can talk, but they do not have the right to talk like you say they did in Gjilan."