BBC - Power-sharing council for Kosovo

Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 10:20 GMT

The international authorities in Kosovo have signed an agreement with local political leaders establishing a power-sharing council that will bring Kosovans into the administration of the province.

The accord was signed by the political chief of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, Hashim Thaci, the leader of the Democratic League for Kosovo Ibrahim Rugova, and the head of the Unified Democratic Movement, Rexhep Qosja.

No representative of Kosovo's Serb community was present at the signing.

The new interim council is expected to begin its first meeting later on Wednesday.

UN mission chief Bernard Kouchner is to be its chairman, with a right of veto over all decisions. He hailed the agreement as "a very important breakthrough."

The council replaces a UN administration that has been boycotted by the Serb minority, and has been suffering an acute shortage of resources.

The new body will also comprise 14 separate departments that will function like government ministries and will focus on rebuilding the war-shattered province.

Local cooperation

A BBC correspondent in the capital Pristina says the UN has been discussing the plan with local leaders for some time. He says it amounts to an acknowledgement by the UN that the province cannot be governed without the cooperation of local people.

Under to the plan, Mr Kouchner will continue to govern the province, but will be supported a rotating system of four deputies.

The local leaders will work with the UN and other international bodies charged with rebuilding Kosovo.

UN struggle

In a resolution that ended the Kosovo conflict, the UN Security Council created an international military force to oversee security and a UN civilian administration to run the province and build a new government and economy.

But despite the Nato and UN presence, Serbs and other ethnic minorities continue to suffer attacks aimed at taking revenge for the deaths of an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians during the Yugoslav army campaign against separatist forces.

A UN spokesman told the Associated Press news agency that allowing local political leaders to begin working in democratic institutions would help the post-election transition to autonomy. He said the UN would remain in charge until then.

Most Kosovo Albanians demand full independence from Belgrade, while the Security Council resolution envisages only that the province should have autonomy within Yugoslavia.

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