July 4, 2000Albanian leader bolts UN council
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) -- A prominent ethnic Albanian leader bolted the U.N. committee that administers Kosovo to protest a deal between the United Nations and the Serbs to enhance security for the Serb minority.
"We have frozen all participation in the interim administration of Kosovo temporarily," Hashim Thaci told reporters Tuesday.
Thaci, who stayed away from a second straight council meeting Tuesday, cited the agreement signed last week with the Serbs as well as "other unresolved issues" including the ethnic divisions in the northwestern city Kosovska Mitrovica.
Thaci was the political chief of the officially disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought Yugoslav forces until NATO intervened in the conflict in June, 1999.
While another prominent Kosovo Albanian leader remains on the council as well as moderate Serb representatives, Thaci's protest underscores the difficulties facing the United Nations and NATO in reconciling the two foes and building the foundation of a lasting peace in Kosovo.
U.N. officials announced the deal with moderate Serbs on Thursday in an effort to lure them back to the multiethnic U.N. Transitional Council, which the Serbs had boycotted to protest continued attacks by ethnic Albanians.
Revenge attacks on Serbs in the province have been plentiful since the end of the 78-day NATO bombing campaign last year to push Serb troops out of Kosovo.
In the latest incident, mortars were fired late Monday at a Serb village but there were no injuries.
Under the deal, the United Nations promised to "take special measures" to protect Serbs, including a neighborhood watch system, accelerated efforts to recruit and train Serbs in the local police force and a special committee to oversee protection of Serb religious sites.
But many Kosovo Albanians fear the arrangement may be a first step toward dividing Kosovo into ethnic regions. Such a partition has long been opposed by every leading Kosovo Albanian politician.
A senior member of Thaci's party, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they found the agreement one-sided and unacceptable.
The chief U.N. administrator, Bernard Kouchner, said he regretted Thaci's decision and was prepared to make the same arrangements with ethnic Albanians.
But Kouchner added that "those who are targeted today are the Serb community. It is our duty to ensure security for the people of all communities."