NYT - UN agrees to share power with Kosovars

December 15, 1999


PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- The United Nations has agreed to a power-sharing pact with three Kosovo Albanian leaders, bringing them into the official administration to help govern the unruly Serbian province.

The U.N. special representative here, Bernard Kouchner, who signed the deal Wednesday, remains in charge. But he will now have a four-member Administrative Council that will propose policy and legislation.

The deal gives Kosovars an executive role in governing the province and official status and council seats to three Albanian leaders: Hashim Thaci, former political head of the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army; Ibrahim Rugova of the Democratic League for Kosovo; and Rexhep Qosja of the Unified Democratic Movement.

The fourth seat was reserved for a Serb. But Serbian leaders rejected Kouchner's invitation to send a representative.

U.N. officials said the accord would dismantle the unofficial local structures that the Albanians have been running and break up the political rivalries that have frequently stymied U.N. administration.

At a news conference after the signing, Kouchner described the agreement as the "first real success of the U.N. mission in Kosovo." It would give substantial autonomy, followed by self-government, to Kosovo, in keeping with a U.N. resolution on Kosovo, he said.

The chief of the troops here, Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, also welcomed the accord, saying it would foster needed cooperation among local officials, citizens and security forces in combating the crime and revenge killings that have engulfed Kosovo since NATO forced Serbian forces to withdraw in June.

Thaci seconded that view, saying: "This structure will help reduce the level of crime. I sincerely believe that with these structures there will not be any more masked people, political mafia and other crimes. And instead of hatred, I hope we shall build a climate of tolerance and peaceful coexistence."

The Albanian leaders said they would work together and join forces to build a new Kosovo until elections for a provincial government could be organized next year.

But the deal has quite obviously left the Kosovo Serbs out in the cold.

Serbian leaders in Kosovo have yet to endorse the pact and have not nominated anyone to fill their designated council position. Ethnic Serbs have left the province in large numbers since the NATO-led forces took over. But tens of thousands remain. They have withdrawn more and more into their own enclaves for safety and complain that their political and security needs are being ignored.

Even without the participation of the Serbs, however, the U.N. administration had arrived at such an impasse in managing civil and political life in Kosovo that many here felt that an agreement was desperately needed. Residents of Pristina, the provincial capital, say fear has gripped the city, with rumors of kidnappings keeping them at home at night.

At the least, the accord will spread responsibility from the United Nations to local leaders. Thaci and Rugova are to disband their alternative governments and integrate their people into the new administration, physically moving into offices in the U.N. administrative building in the center of town.

Kosovars are to take up positions throughout the administration of the province alongside U.N. officials. There are to be 14 departments with responsibility for finance, commerce, education, justice, health and so on.

Defense will be left to the NATO-led forces. But the governing council will have an expert committee on security that will work with international troops and the police.

Kouchner will be more like a presiding officer over the council, said a spokeswoman at the United Nations, Nadia Younes.

His deputy, Jock Covey, will be co-chairman of the council, along with a rotating co-chairman from among the four Kosovo council members.

Thaci, who has headed a self-declared provisional government since the security forces took over the administration of Kosovo from the Serbs, and Rugova, who calls himself president of a shadow government elected by Albanians some years ago, appear to have buried their personal rivalry.

Yet they could not resist political digs at each other at the news conference.

Of the three Albanians, Thaci was the main person who was dragging his feet on the agreement, said a U.N. official. "He had done the most legwork setting up his own structures," the official said, "and in a sense had the most to lose."


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