UN unveils emergency plan amid Kosovo power crisis

PRISTINA, Jan 10, 2000 -- (AFP) Kosovo's western administrators unveiled an emergency plan Monday to ration electricity if supplies for the war-torn province drop below critical levels.

The move came as Kosovo shivered under a thick blanket of snow and the administration admitted to continued difficulties with the Yugoslav province's aging power stations, run down by years of neglect.

If power supplies drop below 170 megawatts of electricity a day, the province will be divided into three zones for rationing, each of them receiving two hours of electricity followed by four hours without.

The U.N. administration, UNMIK, said it had signed a deal Sunday with Athens to receive 60 megawatts of power a day from Greece, to supplement the 100-megawatt daily intake from neighboring Albanian and Macedonia.

Serbia, from which Kosovo rebels fought for independence in an 18-month struggle until June last year, also contributes to Kosovo's electricity supply, western officials said.

Kosovo's outdated power stations -- the newest of which is 15 years old -- are barely functioning after a decade of neglect and with a mainly ethnic Albanian staff who were not allowed to work there after Belgrade scrapped Kosovar autonomy in 1989.

UNMIK officials also admitted that some fuel deliveries to power stations had been skimmed off.

Security forces are investigating the disappearance of 32 tons of a recent 600-ton delivery, a spokeswoman said.

The European Union Task Force in Kosovo (TAFKO), which is paying 21 million euros (dollars) for Kosovo's fuel and power maintenance, on Monday expressed concern at the lack of transparency governing fuel supplies.

One TAFKO expert insisted that international peacekeepers should ensure every step of the delivery process to avoid any overlap between the large bureaucracies running the province.

An emergency task force set up by the European Commission in November to tackle the ongoing power problem warned of the need for an urgent response plan, reporting a "risk of experiencing catastrophic utilities shortfalls."

It pointed out that UNMIK had no emergency fuel plan and that the task force "could not readily identify responsible officers for water, waste, sewage and fuel."

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