NYT - Kosovo power-sharing deal signed

December 15, 1999

By The Associated Press

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

No representatives of Kosovo's Serb community were present at the signing, and local Serb officials dismissed the deal. One, Oliver Ivanovic, described it as ``a hasty, imprudent decision'' which could lead to a Kosovo independent of Yugoslavia.

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.

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

The new body, in which Kouchner will act as governor, is to be established immediately. It is expected to absorb all existing administrative structures and be in operation by Jan. 31. It will grant an official power-sharing role to ethnic Albanian leaders in a province with a 90 percent Albanian majority.

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 revenge for the deaths of an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians killed in an 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 that today'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.

In Belgrade, Serbia's capital, the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement condemned the power-sharing agreement as a ``heavy blow to the idea of a multiethnic life in Kosovo.''

It was not clear how Kosovo's Serbs would be involved, if at all, in the new administration. Kouchner said it was up to them whether or not to participate.

``The Serbs are welcomed and we did not stop talking with them,'' he said.

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.

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. It stipulates that the U.N. administrator in Kosovo will coordinate the activity of the new administration and have the final decision if the parties can't reach an agreement.


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