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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 14:24 GMT
Kosovo boss faces tightrope walk
Refugee camp for Kosovo Albanians
Waiting to return: Haekkerup faces balancing act over refugees
By Nicholas Wood in Pristina

The new head of the UN mission in Kosovo, Hans Haekkerup, takes up his position at a particularly difficult time.

The last few months have seen a wave of politically-motivated violence that has angered the international community, and many Kosovar Albanians are warning there could be worse to come unless further attention is paid to the region.

The murders were some of the most shocking to hit Kosovo in the past few months - four members of a gypsy family were killed late last year as they returned to rebuild their destroyed homes.

They were shot, one by one, through the head.

The men were Ashkaeli gypsies, Albanian-speaking Muslims and members of the closest ethnically related group to Kosovo's majority Albanian population.

Hans Haekkerup
Hans Haekkerup: Not convinced about Albanian Kosovo-wide government
It is believed they were killed by hardliners opposed to the return of Serb and gypsy refugees to their homes.

The killers' message was stark - no minority, not even the Ashkaeli, has the right to live in Kosovo.

Since the killings, a wave of violence has swept across the province, including the assassination of politicians.

Armed guard

Xhemajl Mustafa, a senior adviser to moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova, was one of the best-known among them.

Since his killing in late November, colleagues have had to live under armed guard.

Aftermath of Pristina bomb attack
Violence has extended to Pristina
"We are being guarded by the UN mechanisms for security and of course, this creates a feeling that freedom in Kosovo is yet not incomplete," said one colleague.

In the same week as Mr Mustafa's murder, the house of the Yugoslav representative in Pristina was blown up, killing his driver.

It is events like these that have prompted Western leaders - among them Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson - to issue stark warnings to Kosovo's Albanian community.

Donor fatigue

"The international community has invested time and effort to people and a lot of money in making Kosovo safe and secure again, but that firm support could easily be undermined," he said.

This sense of fatigue with Kosovo can not only be seen among politicians, but charities.

The past 18 months have seen money pouring into the reconstruction of schools, houses and hospitals.

It is now, when organisations actually have the time and resources to be focused on long-term projects, that we're seeing a drastic cut in the funding

International Rescue Committee spokeswoman
But the International Rescue Committee in Pristina says money for long-term projects is drying up.

"These types of projects are not just putting plastic sheeting over a window or something like that," said a spokeswoman.

"It is now, when organisations actually have the time and resources to be focused on long-term projects, that we're seeing a drastic cut in the funding."

Both the lack of aid and the increase in violence followed the fall of Slobodan Milosevic and Yugoslavia.

Kosovo 'second fiddle'

The fear among many Albanians is that the West is now focusing on Serbia's needs at Kosovo's expense.

It is up to Hans Haekkerup to convince people that this is not the case, say local political watchdogs.

The first step in that process will be reassuring ethnic Albanians that they are well on the way to establishing a Kosovo-wide government, which Bernard Kouchner firmly supported.

Mr Haekkerup seems less convinced though. He says he wants to consult with local political parties before he commits himself.

Failure to organise those elections this year could lead to more bloodshed.

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See also:

23 Nov 00 | Europe
Rugova aide shot dead
15 Jan 01 | Europe
Kosovo UN boss makes poll pledge
09 Dec 00 | Europe
Dane named as new Kosovo chief
17 Nov 00 | Europe
Kouchner: Doctor with a vision
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