The Nando times - Kosovo Albanians, UN discuss power-sharing deal

By MIHAELA ARMASELU

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (December 15, 1999) - The top U.N. administrator in Kosovo signed a power-sharing agreement with ethnic Albanian leaders Wednesday, creating a new governing body aimed at bringing more political stability to the province.

Bernard Kouchner met with three Kosovo Albanian leaders representing local political parties at U.N. headquarters in Pristina to sign the agreement, which envisages the creation of a new interim administration. No representatives of Kosovo's Serb community were present at the signing, and a local Serb official dismissed the deal.

"It's an important moment which will be history," Kouchner said after the event.

Under the deal, the three Kosovo Albanian leaders - Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Thaci and Rexhep Qosja - are to work with the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, sources said.

The new body, in which the U.N.'s top administrator in Kosovo will act as a governor, is to be established immediately and is expected to absorb all existing administrative structures and be in operation by Jan. 31.

NATO and U.N. leaders have said they want to create a multiethnic society in Kosovo, but their efforts have been plagued by ethnic violence - particularly attacks by ethnic Albanians against Serbs, who have continued to flee Kosovo. The attacks are in revenge for the deaths of an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians killed in the 18-month crackdown by forces loyal to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Serb forces left Kosovo in June after a NATO bombing campaign.

Rada Trajkovic, a member of a Kosovo Serb board, told Belgrade's FoNet news agency Wednesday's agreement doesn't mean anything to the Serbs.

"It is a deal with the Albanians and as such it does not deserve a comment," he said. It was not clear how Kosovo's Serbs would be involved, if at all, in the new administration.

Kosovo's Albanian leaders exert tremendous influence on the province's 1.4 million people, 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanian.

In New York, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard denied that the move to add Kosovo's leaders to the province's administration was a tacit admission by the United Nations that after six months it couldn't run the province effectively without their help. Eckhard said the world body had never wanted to impose a dictatorship in Kosovo.

Allowing local political leaders to begin working in democratic institutions would help in a transition to autonomy, Eckhard said, adding that the United Nations would remain in charge until then.

In a June 10 resolution that ended the Kosovo conflict, the U.N. Security Council created an international military force to oversee security and a U.N. civilian administration to run the province and build a new government and economy.

Stymied by a lack of funds to jump-start operations, U.N. officials have struggled to wield power in the province and set it on the path to autonomy envisaged under the Security Council resolution.

The new body will comprise 14 separate departments that will function like government ministries.

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