Kouchner criticises Germany over Kosovo refugees

BERLIN, May 21, 2000 -- (Reuters) Kosovo's United Nations administrator was quoted on Saturday as criticizing German efforts to repatriate thousands of Kosovo Albanians it took in from last year's conflict there.

Bernard Kouchner told Der Spiegel magazine German Interior Minister Otto Schily wrongly believed that returning refugees would be offered jobs to enable them to rebuild their lives in the shattered region.

"My friend Schily was convinced we could offer jobs to a wave of returning people," he said according to the text of an interview to be released on Monday.

"That is completely wrong. Fifty percent of the population is unemployed. We don't want to provoke another crisis, we have just managed to get over the winter," he added.

Schily rejected the accusation. "Dr Kouchner's comments are incomprehensible," he said in a statement.

"It is not true that I have spoken of there being sufficient jobs for people returning to Kosovo, although there is the need and opportunity for them to help in the rebuilding of their country," he added.

Germany, which took in some 350,000 refugees from the Bosnian war of the early 1990s and thousands more from the Kosovo conflict, wants all the Kosovo Albanian refugees to have returned by the end of the year. Around 160,000 people are affected.

The refugees are being offered cash to leave and can in some cases be threatened with deportation. Schily said, however, just 990 people had been forcibly repatriated since July 1999.

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