Annan calls for clarity on Kosovo political future

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 8, 2000 -- (Reuters) U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday called for clarity on the future political status of Kosovo, saying he and the Security Council would take up the contentious issue shortly.

"We are operating in a very ambiguous operation, in a limbo, because the future, the political outline has not been defined," he told a news conference.

Bernard Kouchner, the U.N. administrator in Kosovo raised the controversy with the Security Council on Monday. Annan said he would touch on the question in a report next month that sought to define Kosovo's role in the Balkans.

"You can't deal with situation in Kosovo in isolation from the region," Annan said.

Kouchner, who plans municipal elections in Kosovo late this year, said the "substantial autonomy " promised for Kosovo had never been defined the Security Council's June 1999 resolution that created the U.N. civilian administration in the Serbian province

With no vision of the future, the Serb minority in Kosovo feared it would be pushed out by ethnic Albanians, who in turn feared NATO troops would leave and put them under Belgrade's control again.

U.N. officials said Kouchner's office planned to draft the proposals on where his mission is headed rather than wait for the council to do so.

Kouchner, however, made clear, that the U.N. would not advocate independence as some Kosovo Albanians are demanding, saying the "final status" of the province was not a matter for discussion at this time. But he said an interim constitution had to be drafted to define the future.

The council in June 1999 authorized a U.N.-led civilian mission and the NATO-led military, known as KFOR, to take over Kosovo after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign that forced Belgrade to halt repression of ethnic Albanians.

Yugoslavia, backed by Russia, has objected to many measures Kouchner has initiated, from a separate currency to collecting taxes, saying they impinged on Belgrade's sovereignty and represented a drift towards independence.

In a separate news conference on Tuesday, Yugoslav's U.N. envoy, Vladislav Jovanovic, who attended Security Council consultations with Kouchner, said the 15-member body ignored the main issues in the province.

Jovanovic said there had been no mention during the briefings of "ethnic cleansing, no mention of genocide, no invitation by Dr Kouchner to visit the camps of the 350,000 exiled Serbs, Romas and others...who are now displaced persons throughout Serbia and Montenegro."

Instead of addressing these issues, he said, Kouchner and NATO General Klaus Reinhardt had discussed such matters as the need for judges, financial resources, additional police, schools and hospitals.

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