Albanian Daily News - Dec 22

Telecom head accuses UN mission of corruption

Albanian Economic Tribune

PRISHTINA - The ousted head of Kosovo’s telecom firm has accused the UN administration here of corruption following the signing of a deal to provide Kosovo with a new mobile phone network.

"It is quite credible that there are corrupt people at UNMIK (UN mission in Kosovo)," Agron Dida told the daily Koha Ditore in an interview about the deal which was signed last week. But he did not level his charges against any individual.

Dida was suspended from his post by UNMIK head Bernard Kouchner earlier this month for "lack of cooperation" and replaced by UNMIK economic director Gerard Fischer.

Dida had staunchly opposed the signing of a mobile phone contract with the French firm Alcatel, arguing that a rival offer from German telecoms giant Siemens provided a better financial package. He threatened to resign if the deal went ahead, adding that the whole of Kosovo telecoms company PTK could walk out too.

Fischer on Friday signed the Alcatel contract in Paris as PTK’s acting head.

"We tried for three months to bring Dida on board," Fischer told AFP on Monday, adding that Alcatel’s was the only offer that would "actually allow people to make phone calls."

He said Dida wanted to buy Siemens equipment and have PTK operate the network itself, which would mean applying for a separate area code for Kosovo. Such licences generally take a year to arrive, Fischer said.

He added that Alcatel’s partner, Monaco Telecom, came with more than 120 roaming agreements, which allow an operator to charge other mobile firms for using their network and which he said are the financial mainstay of operations.

"We need a system to make money for the Kosovo budget, that is the final issue, not to satisfy Mr Dida’s desire to run his company," said Fischer.

PTK would start operating with no roaming agreements, and it could take up to a year to sign just 40, Fischer said. He was also dismissive of the corruption charges.

"In the normal world you have to prove corruption charges, otherwise they are just rumours," said Fischer. Asked why Dida might have made such charges, Fischer said: "Maybe he is instructed by certain people," but did not elaborate.

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]