EU security chief wants deeds, not words in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Mar 15, 2000 -- (Reuters) The time for talk about peaceful co-existence in Kosovo is over and its leaders will now be judged on their actions not their words, European Union security chief Javier Solana said on Tuesday.

"We have to begin judging people not by words, not by smiles but by deeds," Solana told reporters after a day of meetings that included discussions with ethnic Albanian and Serb leaders.

"The moment for talk is over...this is the time for deeds."

The European Union is the largest contributor of money and manpower to the ambitious international project under way to create a multi-ethnic, democracy in the Yugoslav province.

Solana was the secretary-general of NATO when the alliance launched 78 days of air strikes last year that drove Serbian security forces out of Kosovo after a decade of Serbian oppression of the province's ethnic Albanian majority.

But in the eight months since the air war ended and the international community assumed control the vast majority of Kosovo's minority population, including most of its Serbs, have been forced to flee persecution by ethnic Albanians.

The tolerant society envisioned by those like Solana who championed intervention remains an abstract goal.

"Violence should not be accepted by anyone. Minorities have to be protected," Solana told reporters.

The most dramatic moment at Solana's news conference came when a woman called on to ask him a question identified herself as a radio reporter and said: "I am a Serb. I am in danger. I cannot speak my language. I cannot go out on the street now."

Solana could do little but sympathise with her predicament in a place where speaking Serbian within earshot of Albanians has gotten more than one person killed and where peacekeepers provide 24-hour protection to minorities in many locations.

Solana also said that no one in the international community would support the "export of violence" from Kosovo into the Presevo Valley of southeastern Serbia where an armed ethnic Albanian militia group has sprung up recently.

About six thousand ethnic Albanians from that part of Serbia have fled across the administrative boundary into Kosovo since last June, many citing intimidation by Serbian security forces.

Solana implied that he held ethnic Albanian militia activity at least partly responsible for the current turmoil there and he said that the international community "would not tolerate" any further stirring of the pot of ethnic unrest.

Solana is the latest in a flurry of visitors to preach the importance of ethnic co-existence and to slam the door on any ethnic Albanian notion that NATO or the west could be lured into intervening in the Presevo area.

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