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West should hit KLA extremists in Kosovo-UN Sleuth

News and Press Release
Originally published
WEST GENEVA, March 29 (Reuters) - The West should be ready to use force against extremist Albanians in Kosovo, the U.N. human rights investigator for former Yugoslavia said on Wednesday.

In a gloomy survey a year after NATO forces entered the Yugoslav province, Jiri Dienstbier, a former Czech foreign minister, also argued that allowing Kosovo independence after tens of thousands of Serbs had been driven out was unacceptable.

He told the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission most of Kosovo was "ethnically-cleansed of non-Albanians, divided, without any legal system, ruled by illegal structures of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and very often by competing mafias."

Dienstbier said the goal of extremist KLA forces was a "Greater Albania". In this, he said, they were backed by former Albanian President Sali Berisha and other Albanian politicians.

The only way out of the blind alley for the U.N. mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and NATO's KFOR force was to ensure that the U.N. resolution setting up the operation and ensuring the province remained part of rump Yugoslavia was implemented.

Countries participating in the Kosovo operation should be ready "to fight decisively against those who would use arms against UNMIK and KFOR," Dienstbier said.

Armed conflict possible

Proclaiming that Kosovo would stay in Yugoslavia "may mean armed conflict, at least with the radical faction of the KLA and...criminal structures," he warned.

But firm action by the West would "help those Albanians (in Kosovo)...who support a normal life, democracy and a civil society but are now under pressure from the armed extremists."

Dienstbier said if such a decision were not taken the conflict could spread.

"We cannot escape responsibility by deceiving ourselves that the numbers of murders and burned houses have been decreasing.

"It is similarly dangerous when some of the leaders of NATO make the U.N. responsible, and vice-versa," he declared.

"Some American voices insist on passing the responsibility to Europe. This will not work. The states whose representatives took the decisions leading to the present situation have to take the same responsibility to make positive change."

In an overall survey of the region, Dienstbier said the situation for human rights in rump Yugoslavia was worse than when he made his last report a year ago, and called for a review of the economic embargo against Belgrade.

"The abolition of all economic sanctions will support democratic forces and create conditions for overcoming the huge unemployment and poverty which is also often connected to discrimination on an ethnic basis," he said.

The one bright spot in the region, he told the Commission, was Croatia where recent elections brought moderate social democrats and centrists to power following the long rule of nationalist forces.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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