UN envoys vow more support for Kosovo mission

PRISTINA, May 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) A UN Security Council delegation vowed on Saturday to seek more police and administrators for the international mission in Kosovo to curb violence and build democracy in the aftermath of war.

UN mission chief Bernard Kouchner invited the envoys to Kosovo to press his case for donors to honor pledges of support. Kosovo remains rived by Albanian-Serb enmity and Serbs are boycotting voter registration over a lack of security.

Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, head of the delegation, said it had ended a three-day tour convinced there was no need to alter or replace Security Council Resolution 1244, which created the mission, but implementation must be improved.

He said UNMIK (UN Mission in Kosovo) was seriously short of administrators - less than half the full staffing level by some estimates - and police and that much more effort was needed to free prisoners and account for missing people.

"We found a serious constraint with regard to staffing, both civilian police and administration. I believe we have to address this point when we are back in New York," he said.

"Of course the Security Council approved a certain strength but the recruitment is being delayed and that is why staffing levels are not being fulfilled," he told a news conference.

"And the question of missing persons and detainees requires our immediate attention. Action is needed ... very quickly."

Chowdhury said refugee returns had to be another priority, together with the missing and detainees, if ethnic reconciliation was to be achieved and democracy established.

But, echoing Kouchner, he warned against unilateral, uncoordinated attempts to return refugees to the province.

Some Western countries want to deport Kosovo Albanian refugees and U.S. officials disclosed an initiative to return displaced Serbs regardless of poor public security and a weak, war-battered infrastructure in Kosovo.

"While we encourage returns, we have to be able to receive them properly. The question of security, accommodation and livelihood are issues that must be addressed at the same time," said Chowdhury.


Kouchner announced the formation of a joint committee with Kosovo Serb Archbishop Artemije and the heads of the UN relief agency and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe missions in Kosovo to coordinate orderly returns.

"We are all in favor of returning Serbs but we don't want any competition in pushing the Serbs ahead (back to Kosovo)," Kouchner said.

Kosovo's majority Albanians wreaked violent vengeance on Serbs after Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, under NATO air attack, abandoned a brutal military campaign against separatism and withdrew Serbian forces from the province.

Most Kosovo Serbs fled a spree of murder and arson and the rest live in scattered ghettos guarded by KFOR peacekeeping troops around the clock.

The inability of remaining Serbs to leave their enclaves or of Serb refugees to return home safely is the major reason for Belgrade's abiding anger with international rule in Kosovo.

Belgrade says the UN mandate has violated its sovereignty in Kosovo by planning elections without Serb returns and not implementing clauses foreseeing a return of security personnel to guard religious sites and control borders.

Russia and China, who had envoys in the delegation, have backed the Yugoslav position after earlier condemning the NATO air war.

But Chowdhury said the delegation had agreed there was no need to change Resolution 1244 and Kouchner said a re-entry of Serbian security forces anytime soon would be disastrous.

"It's too early for the coming back of the Yugoslav army or customs officers at the borders. We don't want to restart a war," Kouchner said. "We are not refusing implementation of 1244. But please, step by step. We are on track to success."

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