The United Nations mission in Kosovo was plunged into new difficulties
yesterday as Serb leaders withdrew from the province's interim
administrative body and demanded effective self-rule in their own
strongholds, in protest at killings of Serb civilians by Kosovan
As the security council prepares to meet next week to review the first
12 months of the mission in Kosovo, Serb leaders announced that they
would be sending a delegation to New York to demand amendments to
resolution 1244 - the mandate for the UN effort - to protect Serb rights
in Kosovo and allow the establishment "of functional self-rule" in areas
occupied by Serbs.
In addition, moderate Serb leaders say that they have already asked
European officials in the region to send anti-terrorism experts to back
up the Kosovo protection force and the UN's international police force.
The statement by the Serb national council, meeting at the ancient
monastery of Gracanica, comes amid disillusionment among many officials
serving with the UN mission over the resurgence of ethnic violence and
organised crime in Kosovo, and the apparent unwillingness of senior
officials to take on the ethnic Albanian leaders suspected of
involvement in both.
The Serbs' decision is doubly embarrassing for the UN mission, which is
preparing to mark the first anniversary of its mandate this weekend and
has been making strenuous efforts to persuade Serbs to share its vision
of a multi-ethnic democratic society.
But the Serb community is angry about an eruption of violence in the
last week that has left eight of their members dead in four incidents.
The most recent took place early last Friday, when a car hit an
anti-tank mine which had been planted overnight on a British-controlled
road a few miles from Pristina. Two men died, and a woman and two
children were injured.
The decision to withdraw from the Albanian dominated administrative
council is also a blow for Bernard Kouchner, the head of the UN mission,
who had recently managed to persuade moderate Serbs, backed by the
Serbian Orthodox church, to attend the council as observers prior to
It comes amid a campaign for voter registration for the region's first
local elections, scheduled for the autumn. While more than 250,000
ethnic Albanians have been persuaded to register, only a few thousand of
the province's remaining 95,000 Serbs - from a community originally
numbering 250,000 - have registered to vote.
Following the meeting yesterday, Father Sava, a moderate Serb leader who
has backed Serb involvement in Kosovo's nascent democratic process,
indicated that many Serb leaders wanted to end cooperation with the UN,
rather than suspending their involvement until the security council
"The international community has got to decide whether Kosovo is going
to be a lawless place or move towards being a democratic society," he
said. "At the moment, the international community is not really prepared
to take the lead against Albanian terrorism or confront the problem of
He added: "We are aware of the efforts that are being made to protect
Serb people, particularly in the British sector which seems determined
to work in an even-handed way. But in the last two months of our
cooperation with the UN administration we have seen a resurgence of
organised crime all over Kosovo."
The rise in the violence and intimidation against the remaining Serb
community comes despite intense efforts to make Serbs feel secure. Many
Serbian villages south of Pristina have been turned into virtual
fortresses, protected by checkpoints, watch towers and constant
helicopter and ground patrols.
However, despite a ratio of one peacekeeping soldier for every three
Serbs in Kosovo, the Nato-led troops have been powerless to prevent the
latest outbreak of violence.