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Friday, 17 November, 2000, 11:12 GMT
Kouchner: Doctor with a vision
Kouchner
Kouchner has courted publicity throughout his career
Bernard Kouchner was French Health Minister when he was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to lead the UN mission responsible for rebuilding Kosovo.


He has those qualities that the secretary-general said he was looking for: vision, ability to manage and knowledge of the region

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard
Working in parallel with Nato-led troops, Mr Kouchner has been responsible for heading the massive operation overseeing the return of refugees and re-establishing civilian infrastructure in Kosovo.

He also steered Kosovo to last month's local elections, hailed by his administration as the first free, democratic poll in the province's history.

Kosovo: Special Report
A medical doctor, he was among the founders of the relief organisation Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) in the 1970s and was an outspoken proponent of humanitarian action during the Bosnian war.

"He has those qualities that the secretary-general said he was looking for: vision, ability to manage and knowledge of the region," said UN spokesman Fred Eckhard.

Named health minister after the Socialists returned to power in France in 1997, Bernard Kouchner continued to grab the headlines with his high-profile aid work, and was a frequent visitor to the Balkans.

Kosovo Albanian refugees
Kouchner took over a province riven with ethnic conflict
He was among the first to articulate the concept of a "humanitarian right of intervention" overriding state sovereignty - a right invoked by Nato during the conflict in Kosovo.

The French doctor has a reputation as a publicity seeker. He was criticised for posing on a Mogadishu beach carrying a sack of rice on his shoulder during the flawed UN humanitarian intervention in Somalia in 1992.

And he embarrassed the French Government in the early 1990s by branding the late President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire as a "walking bank safe in a leopard-skin hat" just as French troops were intervening to drive out anti-Mobutu rebels.

Possible successor

Mr Kouchner was chosen among a final list of four candidates that also included Italian European Commissioner Emma Bonino, the UK's then Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown - now tipped as a possible successor - and the Dutch Housing and Environment Minister, Jan Pronk.

Responsibility for the Kosovo team had been expected to go to a European country as the European Union assumed major financing responsibility for the reconstruction project.

Before Mr Kouchner, the post was filled on a temporary basis by a senior UN official, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

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See also:

17 Nov 00 | Europe
Kosovo's Kouchner to quit
28 Oct 00 | Europe
Kosovo Albanians flock to polls
21 Apr 99 | UK Politics
'My worst experience' - Ashdown
19 Jul 99 | UK Politics
Ashdown on mission to Kosovo
10 Aug 99 | UK Politics
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