U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called today for an end to the violence against Kosovo's dwindling Serbian community and told senior U.N. officials here that they need to step up their efforts to involve the local Serbian leadership in reconstruction.
The moderate Serbian leadership, led by the Serbian Orthodox Church, has boycotted efforts to create a multi-ethnic transitional council for Kosovo since the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was transformed last month into a lightly-armed, uniformed civil defense force as part of Yugoslavia's agreement with NATO.
Anti-Serb violence by ethnic Albanians has also radicalized the local Serbian community and led most Serbs to look to the government in Belgrade for leadership. Kosovo, a province of Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia, has been run by the United Nations and a NATO-led peacekeeping force since Yugoslav army and Serbian police forces withdrew in June as a condition for ending the NATO air campaign.
Some Western officials here expressed exasperation with the suggestion that Bernard Kouchner, the U.N. special representative in Kosovo, could do more to involve Serbian officials, who have refused his entreaties to return to the negotiating table, in the reconstruction process. The political leadership of the former KLA, which fought a 16-month war-- starting in February 1998--against Serbian forces for Kosovo's independence, also takes part in the transitional council. Even after meeting with Annan Wednesday, Serbian officials refused to say if they would participate in U.N.-created councils.
On a two-day visit, which ended today, Annan and Kouchner had what U.N. officials described as tense discussions over U.N. policy in Kosovo. Annan argued that Kouchner has made decisions--such as recognizing the German mark as the province's legal currency--that infringe upon the sovereignty of Yugoslavia.
Annan urged Kouchner to slow down his decision-making process and consult more with U.N. headquarters in New York.
Western officials here dismissed Annan's complaints as an attempt to micromanage the administration of Kosovo. On a recent visit, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard C. Holbrooke, urged officials to make decisions quickly without worrying about the reaction of the U.N. bureaucracy--an approach Annan frowned upon during his visit.
Among the Western allies, U.S. officials in particular have complimented Kouchner for his willingness to take decisive action.
At a news conference today, Annan made it clear that symbols of embryonic independence, such as the Kosovo Albanians' demand for a seat or observer status at the United Nations, do not have his support.
"The [U.N. Security Council] mandate makes clear that we should administer this territory as an autonomous region, but within the boundaries of the former Yugoslavia," Annan said. "Therefore, from our point of view, we are not here to prepare the people for independence. . . . And I hope this is understood by all."