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UN Peacekeeping Chief Blames Ethnic Albanians for Kosovo Violence - 2004-04-14


A senior United Nations official has accused ethnic Albanian extremists of conducting an organized campaign of violence against minorities in Kosovo last month.

In a report to the Security Council Tuesday, U.N. Peacekeeping Operations Director Jean-Marie Guehenno described Kosovo, five years after the end of civil war, as a simmering cauldron of ethnic suspicions. He said last month's shooting of a Kosovo Serb youth, and the drowning of two Kosovo Albanian children the following day, triggered a rampage by ethnic Albanian extremists. "The onslaught led by Albanian extremists against Kosovo's Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities was an organized, widespread and targeted campaign," he said. "Attacks on Kosovo Serbs occurred throughout Kosovo."

The violence left 19 people dead and more than 1000 injured, including more than 100 international police officers and peacekeepers.

Mr. Guehenno accused Kosovo Albanian civil society of contributing to the charged atmosphere by failing to condemn ethnic violence. He also charged ethnic Albanian political leaders with issuing a statement that contributed to raising tensions.

The U.N. official noted that the violence had completely reversed what had been a struggling post-civil war campaign to return displaced Kosovars to their homes.

Representatives of Albania as well as Serbia and Montenegro at the United Nations joined in condemning the ethnic savagery. While Albania's Ambassador Agim Nesho hailed the international community's work in quashing the violence, Serbia's acting ambassador Roksanda Nincic described it as a failure. "The international civil presence is mandated to maintain civil law and order, protect and promote human rights and assure the safe and unimpeded return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes," she said. "Both have failed to fulfill these obligations."

Mr. Guehenno replied with a defense of the international force in Kosovo. He said the U.N. presence is studying last month's violence with a view to taking corrective measures, but he warned Kosovo's political leaders that they must address the causes themselves, or risk recurring violence.

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