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Friday, 24 March, 2000, 11:22 GMT
Stable Kosovo 'years away'
Mitrovica: Highlights the divisions in Kosovo
A year after the start of Nato's air war against Yugoslavia, the head of the UN mission in Kosovo has said it might take decades to foster democracy and respect for minority rights in the province.

This is just the beginning of a very long involvement of the international community

Bernard Kouchner
Bernard Kouchner claimed only modest progress in rebuilding the province in the nine months since the UN and Nato-led K-For peacekeepers went in, and he pleaded with the international community to be patient.

"I disagree with the word fail. To transform people, their behaviour, their spirit, to give them, to drive them, to offer them the way to democracy, it has even taken years and years, close to a generation, everywhere in the world," he said.

"This is just the beginning of a very long involvement of the international community."

Kouchner: against the word
Kouchner: Against the word "fail"
He said the mission had started rebuilding from zero after 40 years of communism and 10 years of "apartheid" under Serb rule, and pointed to achievements including the resumption of economic activity and the creation of a basic civil administration.

Mitrovica visit cancelled

Underlining how volatile the situation remains, Nato's political and military leaders, Lord Robertson and General Wesley Clark, had to cancel a trip to the divided town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo which had been scheduled for Friday.

A spokesman for K-For said their trip to the town, where Kosovo Albanians and Serbs occupy opposite banks of the River Ibar, had been cancelled for "operational reasons".

The Nato leaders are still due to visit Pristina and a school in Poklek, 15km (10 miles) southwest.

EU action

The trip follows an urgent call by European Union leaders for a new co-ordinated approach to the Balkans.

On Thursday, Lord Robertson accused the EU of having raised nothing more than a "paper army" for Kosovo.

But on Friday morning, the UK's Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, confirmed that the EU's external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, and the security and foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, would head a new Balkans task force to ensure that the international community delivered on its promises to Kosovo.

The UK's Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted the "problems are real" and Europe had to recognise that Kosovo was "our own back yard".

"But the clearer and enhanced role for the European Commission will allow us to get a better grip on the situation," he stressed at the EU summit in Lisbon.


The people of Yugoslavia are marking the anniversary with a series of anti-war rallies across the country.

The BBC Belgrade correspondent Jacky Rowland says one year on from the bombing campaign, President Slobodan Milosevic seems as strong, if not stronger, than ever.

Mr Milosevic has pointed to the exodus of more than 200,000 Serbs from Kosovo as proof that Nato-led forces have failed to guarantee a multi-ethnic society.

In Kosovo, parties are planned for Pristina, as ethnic Albanians celebrate the events which led to the withdrawal of Belgrade's forces and the creation of an international protectorate.

Under the international force, K-For, up to one million Kosovo refugees have felt safe to return home.

For the Serbs who remain, it is a bitter anniversary, as they now have the status of a persecuted minority.


Asked by the BBC to name the best and the worst moments of the peacekeeping mission, K-For commander, General Klaus Reinhardt, mentioned one single event - the confrontation between K-For and tens of thousands of Albanian protesters in Mitrovica.

Reinhardt: best and worst moments in Mitrovica
Reinhardt: Best and worst moments in Mitrovica
"The worst thing was very personally when I went right into this big demonstration in Mitrovica, and I think the best feeling was that it turned out to be a very friendly one," he said.

"People were cheering us up and telling us that we are doing a great job here, and I think it showed that people realised how much we care and how much we have done for them."

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Kosovo: One year on
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Key stories:
Nato's incomplete victory
The view from Kosovo
Serbs fear new war
Nato strikes: The untold story
An Uneasy Peace
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Europe Contents

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See also:

16 Mar 00 | Europe
Kosovo one year on
16 Mar 00 | Europe
Nato's incomplete victory
16 Mar 00 | Europe
Serbs fear new war
24 Mar 00 | Europe
Milosevic still standing strong
22 Mar 00 | Europe
Bleak outlook for Serb refugees
15 Jun 99 | Europe
A land of desecration and death
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