Kosovo's new co-administration to come into effect Tuesday

PRISTINA, Feb 1, 2000 -- (AFP) Kosovo's co-administration between local politicians and U.N. officials comes into effect Tuesday, though few Kosovars will notice any immediate change and no Serbs have yet signed up.

The Joint Interim Administrative Structure (JIAS) officially replaces the various self-declared and internationally unrecognized governments that have existed here since the United Nations took over the province last June.

"We expect all parallel structures to stop functioning tomorrow," said Jan Kickert, political advisor to the head of the U.N. Kosovo mission (UNMIK) Bernard Kouchner.

Other UNMIK officials said more leeway would be given to political parties being brought on board.

"The agreement put January 31 as a target date. It's not that something is going to happen tomorrow (Tuesday), these structures continue to exist, and it will be a progressive implementation," said UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel.

The JIAS will feature 19 departments jointly run by local leaders and U.N. administrators, with a four-member Interim Administrative Council (IAC) at its center.

However, the allocation has proved a slow process amid political wrangling and only four of the departments are actually working, although co-heads for several others have been named.

Western diplomats have welcomed the co-administration as a step forward for Kosovo, devastated by a decade of neglect under Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and a vicious war between his forces and Kosovar Albanians.

"For the first time Kosovar politicians will be faced with taking responsible decisions," said one diplomat. "We should not underestimate that."

The new structure is aimed at replacing the self-declared 'provisional government' of ex-rebel leader Hashim Thaci and the unofficial election as 'president' of veteran pacifist leader Ibrahim Rugova and his officially unrecognized parliament.

But representatives of the province's Serbian community have boycotted the co-administration since its December launch, saying they had not been consulted.

They announced last week however that they were close to joining after renewed talks with UNMIK.