Clampdown on Kosovar 'Troublemakers'

The international community is coming down hard on Kosovars seen as working against peace in Macedonia

Clampdown on Kosovar 'Troublemakers'

The international community is coming down hard on Kosovars seen as working against peace in Macedonia

EU foreign ministers have drawn up a list of Albanians from Kosovo and Macedonia whose actions are perceived as running counter to efforts to resolve the Macedonian crisis peacefully. The initiative follows a similar move made by Washington last week.

The list of 38 individuals contains the names of members of the National Liberation Army, NLA, the Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC, and political parties in the UN-governed province, an EU official told the Pristina based daily Koha Ditore.

They will be banned from travelling to EU states, in a move most likely aimed at hindering fund-raising and publicity activities.

The decision comes hot on the heels of a similar, albeit slimmer, list compiled by Washington last week, which led to the suspension of five officers in the KPC - the defence unit set up to absorb members of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA.

The move was seen by Kosovars as a US-brokered manoeuvre to pressure Albanian parties in Macedonia into making greater concessions en route to a peace deal with Macedonian parties.

Although no specific charges have been laid against the suspended KPC officers, UNMIK are investigating possible links with the activities of ethnic-Albanian fighters in Macedonia.

The names of the five officers first appeared in a list drawn up on June 27 by President Bush's office. Their assets were frozen, and the individuals banned from entering the United States. The list also included the guerrilla group formerly active in the Presevo valley region and the NLA.

The US administration has variously accused Daut Haradinaj, Sami Lushtaku, Rrustem Mustafa - Remi, Rexhep Selimi and Ramiz Lladrovci and others, of blocking the implementation of the UN Resolution 1244 on the governance of Kosovo as well as undermining peace and stability in the region.

"We will use all the means at our disposal to isolate these groups and individuals and cut their access to financial support," read a White House press statement.

The initial reaction of KPC chief General Agim Çeku was to reprimand the officers. He issued a written warning, delayed promotion prospects and cut their salaries by 25 per cent. But these measures were frowned upon by international officials in Pristina.

They said that as long as the officers remained inside the KPC then Western officials in Kosovo would find it impossible to continue working with the body in the future. International support for the KPC would have to be questioned if the five officers are not suspended," UNMIK and KFOR officials stated.

This whole issue has seriously damaged the only internationally-recognised Kosovan institution run solely by Kosovars.

General Çeku and his deputy Sylejman Selimi offered their resignations in an emergency meeting of the KPC general staff, held to discuss the suspension of the five senior officers. Çeku is respected by the international community and is considered the only figure able to hold the institution together. Consequently, Kosovo's chief administrator, Hans Haekkerup, refused to accept the resignations, in a letter praising the former KLA commander's role in leading the KPC.

Ceku's resignation is also opposed by other KPC officers who sympathise with his position and believe that the move against the officers was unjustly harsh. However, they accepted the decision in a subsequent press release.

Haekkerup stressed that the suspensions had no bearing on the attitude of UNMIK towards the KPC as a whole and that they looked forward to close collaboration with the force. The KPC reciprocated with gestures of goodwill, and expressed the hope that the affair would not jeopardise financial support and other forms of international assistance for the group.

In its defence, the KPC has highlighted its support for the peace process and its success in absorbing 5000 ex-KLA members into a legal structure, so diffusing the potential threat of an unemployed demobbed force.

So far the suspended officers have made no public statement. Yet their future within the organisation seems bleak. While some KPC members voice their hopes that some might return to the force, the general feeling is that they will have to leave.

Garentina Kraja is a journalist with the Kosovo daily Koha Ditore

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