UN admits Kosovo power plan was too optimistic

BELGRADE, Jan 18, 2000 -- (Reuters) The U.N.-led administration in Kosovo, where long power cuts have been part of daily life throughout the winter, admitted on Monday its plans to revive the electricity sector had been too optimistic.

Officials from the United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) had pledged the worst of the power problems would be over by the coldest months of the harsh Balkan winter, January and February.

UNMIK spokeswoman Nadia Younes acknowledged this assurance was based on an assessment of the province's dilapidated main, coal-fired power stations which now looked too upbeat.

"It shouldn't have been said," Younes told a news briefing in the Kosovo capital Pristina. "I think that we overestimated the capacity of the two power stations."

On Monday, Younes said, domestically produced and imported power amounted to just 205 megawatts - little more than a third of Kosovo's average electricity requirements.

Officials were rationing distribution around different regions, with each receiving two hours of electricity followed by six hours without, Younes said.

Monday's situation was fairly typical of recent weeks, when homes and streets have been plunged into darkness on a daily basis. There has rarely been enough electricity for everyone.

"This is not a perfect science," Younes said in the administration's defense. "These are old power stations and we have been faced with quite a lot of unexpected setbacks."

A fire last week at the Kosovo B station near Pristina knocked one of its two generating units out of action, probably for several weeks. Officials have also struggled to get enough diesel to restart generating units after they break down.

The power cuts have caused cold and discomfort across Kosovo. But the U.N. refugee agency, worried about the fate of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians who have returned to war-damaged homes, has said people appear to be coping so far.

Legally, Kosovo remains a part of Yugoslavia. But it is run by the U.N. administration, set up after 11 weeks of NATO bombing drove Serb forces out of Kosovo.

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