Kosovo parliament misses deadline to dissolve

PRISTINA, Feb 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) Kosovo's unofficially elected parliament on Monday missed a target date for its dissolution, required as part of a commitment by local leaders to work together with the province's U.N.-led administration.

But the United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said the decision would not affect efforts to get a new joint administration with local officials up and running on Tuesday.

Under a deal between the U.N. and local leaders signed last month, all of Kosovo's numerous parallel institutions were meant to cease to exist by Monday. In return, the U.N. will share administration with local political parties and experts.

Deputies to the parliament decided, however, they wanted more time to consider issues such as the future of the assembly and what to do with funds collected by their parallel government. They agreed to meet again within 10 days.

The U.N. mission took the news in its stride. A spokeswoman, Susan Manuel, said officials had always expected that the dissolution of parallel structures and their integration into the new administration would be a gradual process.

"We didn't expect these things to happen immediately," Manuel said, stressing that it was up to the local leaders to deal with the detail of winding up their institutions.

"They've agreed to it, they're going to do it and we believe they're going to do it," she said.

U.N. feels hampered by parallel system

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority set up unofficial institutions - from local councils to government ministries - as part of a parallel state after Serbian authorities stripped the province of its autonomy in 1989.

These structures have continued to exist, even after NATO bombing drove out Serb forces last year and the territory was placed under international control. They have also been joined by yet more set up after the bombing.

U.N. officials say the competing institutions have made their task of bringing order and a functioning administration to the war-shattered and neglected province more difficult. They hope the new joint administration will improve matters.

Some Kosovo leaders, however, argue that only their officials, with valuable local knowledge, have kept some sort of administration functioning in parts of postwar Kosovo.

A sign of the difficulties the U.N. will continue to face came from Bujar Bukoshi, prime minister of one of several unofficial Kosovo governments, who said he would not hand over funds his administration had collected to UNMIK en masse.

"This fund of the Republic of Kosovo will continue to exist," Bukoshi told Reuters during a break from the parliamentary session, held in a cultural center in Pristina.

"It's up to our institutions to decide in what form it can be continued," he said, adding his government was, however, ready to discuss giving money to UNMIK for specific projects.