Brothers in arms?
While thousands of Albanians held protests around the province in support of their brethren in Macedonia, Kosovo Albanian leaders said Macedonian authorities were not able to resolve the problems and they should move towards fulfilling Albanian requests.
Leader of Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), Ibrahim Rugova, demanded that the relevant international authorities look more closely at the situation in Macedonia because of concerns that some neighboring states are becoming involved in the situation.
"We are asking NATO, the Security Council, the European Union and the US to pay attention to the involvement of some neighboring states in the present situation," said Rugova.
Albanian leaders denounced the statement of the Macedonian government that the conflict there was exported from Kosovo. "The declarations of the Macedonian Prime Minister about Kosovo's involvement in the Macedonian conflict and the accusations towards Germany, the US and the international community in general are similar to the ones made by the criminal Milošević regarding the Kosovo issue," Kole Berisha, another LDK leader, said.
Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Senior Leader Fatmir Limaj called upon the Macedonian government to open the dialogue on Albanian rights as soon as possible. "It is up to the government to start the dialogue as soon as possible and have talks with Albanians to solve all existing problems."
The West wants tougher Albanian line on KLA
German government sources expressed disappointment over the failure of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, on a visit to Germany, to take a clear line against rebels fighting in Macedonia.
Rugova, who was supported by the West as a moderate during the Kosovo war, declined to condemn the guerrillas fighting Macedonian government forces.
Military commanders at NATO have asked the alliance's 19 member countries to be ready with Kosovo troop reinforcements in case the crisis in Macedonia worsens or spreads to southern Serbia. No positive response from any of the member countries has come yet.
The exchange of goods and services between Macedonia and Kosovo in 2000 was between USD 160 and 170 million, according to the Macedonian and Kosovo authorities. The closing of their border has caused daily losses of DM600,000 to 800,000 (approximately USD 273,000 to 364,000) to the Kosovo budget.
Russia also offers condemnation
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited Prištine where he stressed the international community's responsibilities stemming from having adopted Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)—in particular the importance of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Ivanov said that any ambiguity on the part of the international community regarding the status of the UN-run Yugoslav province of Kosovo would strengthen Albanian separatists. "The (Albanian) extremists want to create an ethnically pure entity in southern Europe," he said as he arrived in Kosovo's provincial capital and called on the international community to pronounce "firmly and clearly" on the status of the breakaway Yugoslav province.
Kofi looks on the bright side
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was making progress, despite lingering political, economic and security challenges in the troubled region.
The mission is shifting away from emergency relief efforts—though humanitarian needs persist—and focusing more on laying the groundwork for economic development and self-government in the province, Annan said in his latest report to the UN Security Council.
But continuing ethnic and political disturbances, including riots, grenade attacks, vandalism and violence between Kosovo's minority Serbs and majority ethnic Albanians, remain a huge challenge, he said.
The World Health Organisation's regional offices will be closed as part of a radical restructuring of the organisation's operations in Kosovo. Total staff numbers will be reduced by more than one third.
The WHO operation in Kosovo is one of the largest in the world and it was expected to downsize throughout this year. However, the cutbacks are heavier and have come earlier than was first planned, largely because of a lack of new funding.
Some other UN agencies have also started to reduce their activities. Several NGOs working in the health sector have also begun to cut back on their operations. The drop in funding for international organisations and NGOs in Kosovo coincides with the change from emergency to development operations, a redistribution of support for programmes in the Balkans region and demands for emergency support elsewhere in the world.
There has been a slow response so far this year to the UN's consolidated inter-agency appeal for 2001.
Llazar Semini, 23 March 2001
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