UN Kosovo head condemns killing of Serb doctor as 'sabotage'

PRISTINA, Serbia, Mar 2, 2000 -- (Reuters) The head of the U.N. mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said Wednesday the killing of a Serb doctor this weekend could have been linked to signs that moderate Serbs were ready to join his administration.

"I would like to express my outrage and sympathies over the death Saturday of Dr Josip Vasic," said Bernard Kouchner, himself a doctor and a founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).

Kouchner said Vasic, gunned down in a street in the southeast town of Gjnilane, "represented hope for the future of Kosovo.

"He was one of a handful of minority doctors who remained here, committed to help patients of all communities. His death is a terrible loss," he added.

Vasic was a member of the Serb National Council (SNV), representing Kosovo's Serb population and which has so far boycotted a U.N power-sharing administration launched in December with ethnic Albanian leaders.

Kouchner said Vasic had looked forward to working the Joint Interim Administrative Structure (JIAS) and hinted that his killing could have been a bid to "sabotage" moderate Serb attempts to sign up.

"Was his death just a coincidence? He was killed just after (SNV head) Bishop Artemije had said in Washington that the Serb community which he represents intended to join the JIAS," Kouchner said in a statement.

"The murder of Dr Vasic comes at a time of increasing violence against Serbs aimed at sabotaging the cooperation between the different national communities," he said.

"On a personal level I am saddened and mortified at the loss of a fellow physician, one who had truly followed his calling," Kouchner concluded.

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