Kosovo relief phase to give way to reconstruction

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 7, 2000 -- (Reuters) The United Nations will phase out its relief operations in Kosovo by mid-year and shift the focus of its efforts to rebuilding housing and infrastructure, a senior U.N. official said on Monday.

Dennis McNamara, the U.N. secretary-general's deputy special representative in Kosovo for humanitarian affairs, said half the population of Serbia's mainly ethnic Albanian province receives aid from the U.N. World Food Program and non-governmental organizations, "an exceptionally high proportion."

"The humanitarian aid per capita in Kosovo has probably been one of the highest that we have undertaken ... in any recent such situation," McNamara said.

"This will be phased out in the coming months. So will our emergency shelter program," he added.

He said a proposal accepted by the secretary-general called for the "humanitarian pillar" of the U.N. operation in Kosovo to be completed by mid-2000.

"The process will move to the harder, more difficult part in many respects - rebuilding and reconstructing Kosovo," McNamara said.

He referred to such key areas as providing housing, public utilities and social welfare, "which will now be the safety net for vulnerable families."

McNamara's remarks coincided with a closed-door Security Council briefing on Kosovo by Bernard Kouchner, the head of the U.N. Interim Administration Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK), and Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, the commander of the NATO-led KFOR.

The Security Council in June 1999 authorized UNMIK and 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.

Kouchner and Reinhardt, in their briefings for council members, followed up a report circulated last Friday by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The report said the level of violence in Kosovo was still unacceptable and the situation "remains far from tolerance, let alone reconciliation."

Annan referred particularly to recent clashes in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica and called on U.N. members to help strengthen the "entire chain of justice" by speeding the deployment of badly needed U.N. police and providing judges, prosecutors and penal experts.

Kouchner told the council, according to his briefing notes, that the political objectives of the U.N. mission in Kosovo needed greater clarity, including a better definition of the "substantial autonomy," which the June 1999 Security Council resolution set as an objective for the province.

Reinhardt said his overall aim was to ensure that events in Mitrovica did not adversely affect operations in other areas.

Up to now it had been possible to maintain a stable situation in the rest of Kosovo, he said.

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