Former diplomat to Kosovo urges ethnic tolerance

By MERITA DHIMGJOKA - The Nando Times, Nov. 03, 1999

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (November 3, 1999 9:59 a.m. EST - The international organization assigned to rebuilding civilian life in Kosovo warned Wednesday that the wave of ethnic retaliation against Serbs and other minorities in the province could dissuade potential donors from funding reconstruction.

"The population of Kosovo and their leaders must understand that this violence jeopardizes the international reputation and the standing of Kosovo," said a statement by the 54-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. "It's likely to affect donors' sympathy and support at a time when important donor meetings are coming up."

The OSCE is responsible for helping to restore aspects of daily life in Kosovo, from training the new multiethnic police corps to assisting in the running of municipal administrations.

Violence has persisted in Kosovo despite the presence of the international peacekeeping force which arrived in June after Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic pulled his troops out to stop NATO's 78-day bombing campaign.

The OSCE statement also said, "The international community did intervene in Kosovo to protect human rights and not to pave the way for a new wave of ethnic harassment and violence."

William Walker, the U.S. diplomat who headed the European monitoring mission in Kosovo that tried to keep a lid on tensions before the NATO bombing began, on Tuesday also condemned anti-Serb attacks.

"People are starting to say that: 'Hey, we're going back to more or less the same (problem) as before,'" said Walker, who was invited by ethnic Albanian leaders.

Walker compared the attacks on Serbs to those on Albanians that led to NATO's intervention, and said they play "into the hands of Milosevic."

Milosevic has accused international peacekeepers of failing to protect Serb civilians in Kosovo.

Walker was to be made an honorary "citizen" of the province by prominent ethnic Albanians later Wednesday.

He also was expected to visit the village of Racak, where Serb forces killed 43 Albanians last January, two months before NATO launched airstrikes against Yugoslavia.

More than anything, Walker's popularity with Kosovo's Albanians rests on his condemnation of the Racak massacre, which hastened NATO intervention, and he was expected to repeat his call for ethnic tolerance while visiting the village.

Also Wednesday, officials of the NATO-led force said that a 69-year-old Serb woman was found shot to death in western Kosovo village of Donji Streoc near Decani and investigations were underway.

In the village of Strezovce north of Kamenica in eastern Kosovo, Russian peacekeepers detained ten Serbs for illegal possession of weapons.

During a search operation, the Russians confiscated six AK-47s, seven rifles, two shotguns, three machine-guns, six pistols, two hand grenades and a bayonet.

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