Albanian Daily News - Dec 01

Time Running Out for Kosovo to Clean up Its Act

Albanian Economic Tribune

PRISHTINA - The international community is losing patience with continued ethnic violence in Kosovo and the province risks slipping into chaos, the former leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrat Party, Paddy Ashdown, said Tuesday.

"I want to warn people of a change of attitude that is occurring," said the MP, who is here for two days as part of a fact-finding mission in the Balkans that also took in Bosnia and Montenegro.

He said that three months ago the word Kosovo meant a people that had "suffered a terrible injustice with dignity... and which needed the support, sympathy and help of the international community." But he warned that now whenever Kosovo is mentioned the international community thought of "continuing violence and rising criminality."

"We have a window of opportunity in Kosovo and unless we use that... more effectively than it’s currently being used to establish the basic structures of government and stability... then I suspect the moment may well be past," he said.

"Frankly I do not see that happening at the pace that is necessary," he said, adding that if the chance is missed there is a risk that Kosovo will "continue to slip down that long slope into chaos of the sort that we have seen in the Balkans."

He said the United Nations mission here faced a "very tough job" in administering the post-war province but that it was down to the Kosovars themselves to put aside their political differences and build a democratic society. Ongoing ethnic violence plays into the hands of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Ashdown said, adding that he had not yet seen the "political leadership that is necessary" to halt the widespread unrest.

"In order for evil to triumph it only requires that good men say nothing. I don’t say that people are saying nothing, but they’re saying too little," he said.

Inter-ethnic violence is common in the province, with frequent revenge attacks against Serbs in the aftermath of NATO’s bombing campaign to end Belgrade’s repression of the ethnic Albanian majority here. (AFP)

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