Albanian Daily News - Nov 10

Thaci Says Kosovo Is not Chechnya

Albanian Economic Tribune
PRISHTINA - Hashim Thaci, former head of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, visiting Austria, told the local press that Serbia no longer has any authority over Kosovo.

The Kosovars have no intention of permitting "another Chechnya" by allowing Serbian troops to return, he stressed in an interview with Vienna-based Die Presse.

Thaci condemned violence against non-Albanian minorities in the province, but, argued that there are armed groups active in Kosovo who are outside the control of the now-disbanded KLA.

"These groups include people who entered Kosovo after the recent armed conflict," Thaci said.

He did not elaborate but may have meant criminal gangs that entered Kosovo from Albania after the withdrawal of Serbian forces in June.

The most sensitive issues naturally are the Albanians’ retaliation against the Serbs for the massacres and the future of the UN protectorate of Kosovo itself.

In an interview with the Austrian Der Standard, Thaci said with a stoic face: "There is still no proof that Albanians have shot a Serb. Albanians have also been shot, including some in the KLA. All in all, I am very optimistic regarding the future coexistence of all brothers in Kosovo."

Thaci added that all Serbian civilians who did not take part in atrocities are welcome to stay in or return to Kosovo.

Frankfurt’s Serbian-language daily Vesti reported, on Tuesday, that a previously unknown masked group calling itself the Real KLA has carried out a series of attacks on moderate Kosovars loyal to shadow-state leader Ibrahim Rugova.

Thaci said that relations between the KLA and Rugova’s Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) "are very correct (but) could be better."

He accused Rugova of having a "totalitarian mentality," by which he meant that Rugova considers himself the only leader of the Kosovars. Thaci argued that the political scene "has room for everyone and not just one man." He added that the LDK continues to control funds from the diaspora and uses some of the money for its own political purposes instead of helping the population in general.

"(Despite this) relations with Ibrahim Rugova are very correct on my part - and also on his." However, pacifist Rugova did "not support our resistance; he was against the KLA and also against the international community," Thaci said. "Still, he is chairman of a party with which he can run for free elections. We accept any political leadership in Kosovo if it is chosen in free elections."

The United Nations plans local elections in early summer 2000, but it is restrained regarding elections for the entire territory, because, first, the majority of the Serbs have fled and, second, "national elections" raise the issue of independence from Yugoslavia.

Thaci said: "We still have problems with national elections, but I hope that they can take place at the end of spring."

As regards potential future relations with Albania and the restructuring of states in the region, he said: "Albania should settle its own political crisis more quickly. In general, we are for a democratization of the region. The most important thing is that we have ended the war. The point now is to stabilise the situation."

"All problems in the Balkans are interconnected. A solution can be achieved only if all problems are viewed together. Let us look at what the situation is like in Serbia, as well as in Macedonia and in Albania," he said.

The young Kosovar leader said the future Kosovo will be more tolerant: "The problem that is understood too little is the fact that we were isolated and did not know the West. We lived in a communist system.

"We did not know anything about democracy. But the new generation is for the West."

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