Annan calls level of Kosovo violence "unacceptable"

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 5, 2000 -- (Reuters) The level of violence in Kosovo is still unacceptable and the situation "remains far from tolerance, let alone reconciliation," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday.

Progress made by the UN administration of the largely ethnic Albanian Serbian province "is not yet irreversible and the potential for further violence, including a spill-over effect in southern Serbia, remains a real possibility," he warned.

Annan was reporting in writing to the Security Council on the status of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) for the period since last December 23.

The council last June authorized UNMIK and a NATO-led force called KFOR to take over Kosovo after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign forced Belgrade to halt repression of the ethnic Albanians and allowed hundreds of thousands who fled, mainly to Albania and Macedonia, to return.

Annan's report was issued in advance of a briefing that the council will receive on Monday from the head of UNMIK, Bernard Kouchner of France, and the KFOR commander, General Klaus Reinhardt of Germany.

"Despite broad downward trends, the level and nature of violence in Kosovo, especially against vulnerable minorities, remains unacceptable," Annan said,

He was referring to seething tensions between Albanians, who comprise about 95 percent of the population of some two million, and the remaining Serb community, that resulted in deaths and injuries during the past month.


Annan mentioned the "deplorable events" in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, which "serve to remind us that ethnic tensions can still trigger dramatic cycles of violence."

He called on UN members to support efforts by the UN administration, KFOR and the moderate Kosovo leadership "to make Mitrovica a united city with a joint administration and security for all."

Annan said the demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which battled the Yugoslav army and police for an independent Kosovo, was completed last September and "the focus is now on the return of former KLA soldiers to civilian life."

While the local leaders and people of Kosovo were increasingly participating in efforts to create a society where all could live without fear, "Kosovo remains far from tolerance, let alone reconciliation," he said.

"I urge all concerned, leaders and ordinary people alike, to make a personal effort to bring violence, intimidation and harassment to an end," Annan said.

To help cement the rule of law, he called for the strengthening of "the entire chain of justice" by speeding the deployment of UN police and the training of officers for the Kosovo police service.


Training, support and guidance were needed for the local judiciary while the establishment of a "functional penal system must be greatly accelerated," he said.

He appealed to UN members to provide the necessary police, international judges, prosecutors and penal experts.

Referring to an issue about which Kouchner has repeatedly complained, Annan said that, as of March 1, only 2,361 UN police had been deployed, compared with an authorized strength of 3,618. None of the 1,100 members of special police units, meant to deal with major disorders and unrest, had yet arrived.

Because of this, responsibility for dealing with such incidents had remained with KFOR, he said, though at least three special police units were expected this month.

Annan said it was in the interest of Kosovo Serbs to be represented in a Joint Interim Administrative Structure being set up to provide local government.

"I urge the leaders of the Serb communities in Kosovo to take this step towards real co-existence," he said.

Original article