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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 14:28 GMT
Kosovo UN boss makes poll pledge
Kosovo has held local but not parliamentary elections
Kosovo has held local but not parliamentary elections
The new United Nations administrator for Kosovo, Hans Haekkerup, began work on Monday, pledging to steer the violence-ridden province towards its first parliamentary elections.

However, the former Danish defence minister said he would not name a date for the elections until he had succeeded in building a suitable legal framework for them.

His predecessor as head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (Unmik), France's Bernard Kouchner, said last week that a spring election would be the key to stability.

He warned that momentum could be lost if the elections were delayed.

Serb return

Mr Haekkerup, who arrived in the province on Saturday, also took a cautious line on the return to Kosovo of up to 200,000 Serbs and non-Albanians who fled in 1999.

Hans Haekkerup
Hans Haekkerup: Praise for Kouchner
"My job is to create the secure environment so the returns are possible, and that might take some time yet," he said.

He said the return of the displaced people was one of the key problems for the UN administration.

The refugees departed after the pullout of Serb forces under former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in mid-1999, fearing or suffering attacks at the hands of the ethnic Albanian majority.

In a speech on Friday to mark the end of his 18-month posting to Kosovo, Mr Kouchner admitted that the UN had failed to protect the province's Serbian minority.

Political minefield

He warned the province's Kosovo Albanians that, in the eyes of the international community, they had turned from victims to oppressors.

Mr Haekkerup praised the work done by Mr Kouchner.

"I think a very good job has been done already," he said.

"I'm not starting from fresh ground and I am looking forward to working with the team."

Tread carefully

Correspondents say Mr Haekkerup will have to tread carefully when he makes contact with the newly-elected Yugoslav leader, Vojislav Kostunica, to avoid offending Kosovo's Albanian leaders.

Mr Kouchner never held direct talks with Mr Kostunica, but Mr Haekkerup will not be able to avoid doing so.

He is also expected to encourage Albanian leaders, such as the veteran moderate Ibrahim Rugova, to meet Mr Kostunica.

On Tuesday Mr Haekkerup will meet both Mr Rugova, and his main political opponent, Hashim Thaci, a former guerrilla chief who now heads the Democratic Party of Kosovo.

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See also:

15 Jan 01 | Europe
Kosovo boss faces tightrope walk
09 Dec 00 | Europe
Dane named as new Kosovo chief
17 Nov 00 | Europe
Kouchner: Doctor with a vision
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