CEOL - Russia Voices Criticism, Sympathy For UN In Kosovo

PRISTINA, Nov 9, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russia's ambassador to the United Nations leveled some carefully measured criticism at Kosovo's U.N. administration on Monday and urged its members to consult more closely with the Security Council.

Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, on a two-day visit to the Serbian province, said some measures taken by the U.N. Mission in Kosovo and the 45,000-strong NATO-led Kosovo Force, KFOR, had not helped to preserve a multi-ethnic society.

But the envoy, charged with the diplomatic balancing act of voicing criticism from Russians and their traditional allies the Serbs while not offending his U.N. hosts, also stressed that international officials in Kosovo had a tough task.

He made clear he was not accusing UNMIK chiefs of deliberately ignoring Security Council Resolution 1244, which governs the work of both the United Nations and KFOR in Kosovo.

"It's a difficult job and we believe it must be done pragmatically. It is difficult to judge from New York. It is easier to see things from the ground," said Lavrov, who had talks with top international and local leaders in Kosovo.

"But to be within the Resolution 1244 parameters, there must be constant consultations and we encouraged more consultations between people on the ground and the Security Council."

The ambassador's remarks reflect a view among Serb and Russian officials that the United Nations has paid too much attention to the wishes of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority and their desire for independence and not enough to the resolution, which states that the territory remains a part of Yugoslavia.

Attacks on Serbs plague province

Attacks on Serbs by ethnic Albanians, angry at years of Serb repression, have plagued the province since KFOR and the United Nations arrived in mid-June, after NATO bombing drove out Serb forces. At least tens of thousands of Serbs have fled.

"We believe that some of the actions taken by KFOR and UNMIK leadership were not entirely helpful from the point of view of keeping the multi-ethnic nature of this place," Lavrov said after a meeting with U.N. mission head Bernard Kouchner.

U.N. and KFOR officials argue they face an impossible task keeping all the people in a bitterly divided territory satisfied all the time and are doing their best to strike a balance.

"From 1244 to reality - this is sometimes difficult, very difficult to apply," said Kouchner, who briefed the Security Council on the work of his administration last week.

"We (have been) here...less than four months. It has taken four centuries to establish a sort of common view, and this is 1244," the former French health minister said. "The people were never living together. Close to each other, but never together."

Lavrov also made it clear Moscow expects KFOR to solve the problem surrounding the southern town of Orahovac, where ethnic Albanians have been staging a blockade for more than two months to prevent Russian peacekeepers from deploying there.

"Ethnic groups here cannot dictate to the international community which nationalities can be serving one place of Kosovo or another," he said.

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