Sunday, June 26, 2005

1,000 UK troops on Kosovo standby to counter Serb militants

By Robert Fox in Pristina

26 June 2005

Britain is drawing up contingency plans to send up to 1,000 extra British troops and advisers to Kosovo as a crisis looms over the Balkan province's future.

Officially Kosovo remains a part of Serbia, although it has been under international control since 1999, when Nato troops took over in the wake of a bombing campaign against ex-president Slobodan Milosevic. But the province's restive Albanian majority, backed by the US, is demanding independence from "final status" talks later this year.

Serbs inside Kosovo, of whom about 125,000 remain, and the Serbian government still oppose Kosovo breaking away. Recently, however, Belgrade has shifted its position by declaring Kosovo should be granted something "more than autonomy, but less than independence". Either way, the interim Kosovo government of President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi believes there is a threat of serious violence once the talks get under way.

In March last year riots across the province killed 19 people, including one UN policeman, and seriously injured more than 200. A report into the riots by Kai Eide, a Norwegian diplomat, castigated Unmik, the UN mission to Kosovo, and K-For, the international military force, for incompetence, inertia and corruption. As the violence erupted, German UN troops were accused of hiding in their barracks. The 1st Battalion, the Royal Gloucester Wiltshire and Berkshire Regiment, then Nato's spearhead battalion, had to be flown in. As tensions rose this spring, the 1st Green Jackets had to be brought in for a similar mission.

As the "final status" talks begin, trouble is feared from Serb militants in Mitrovica and north-east Kosovo, with intelligence suggesting they could be supported by nationalists across the border in Serbia. More worrying, say intelligence analysts, is the possibility of another spontaneous nationalist uprising by militant Kosovo Albanians if independence is put off yet again. "We could face something like the KLA uprising in 1998, only this time we don't know who the new leaders will be," said one.

Britain has 200 troops and support personnel in Kosovo, and some 1,000 troops in Bosnia, where the international administration is run by Lord Ashdown. But his mission ends in October, and Britain hands over command of the EU force in Bosnia at the same time. The Ministry of Defence says officially there are no immediate plans to send troops to Kosovo, but "contingencies are under constant review". According to military sources, the timing means the British battalion in Bosnia could be switched to Kosovo, just when it might be needed.


Anonymous said...

Today I read something discusting. I was so terrible angry. I thought the Kosova albanians were helpful and proud people. I showed this article to my uncle who works as a senior political advisor at the US state department in DC. He was so angry that he became black in his eyes and red in his face. "Copy this to me until wednesdays meeting" he told me.
Below is the article:

Media Monitor

Kosovo ombudsman describes 'vulnerable' position of returned Serbs
Jun 26, 2005, 16:45 GMT

Kosovo Ombudsman Marek Antoni Nowicki has written a column for an Albanian-language newspaper in the form of a series of postcards describing the vulnerable, poverty-stricken lives of Serbs in Kosovo. The sketches show how Serbs depend on protection by Kfor peacekeepers and the police, although crimes committed against the Serbs are almost never solved. Nowicki concluded: "If there is a sincere will... to see the reintegration of returnees and to prepare solid ground for Serbs so that they can see a place for themselves here, then more visible efforts by the government and the neighbourhoods must be seen on the ground". The following is the text of the column by Ombudsman Nowicki entitled "Collage" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 24 June:

When people travel, many of them find the time to take a few photos or write down a few thoughts and descriptions of the unfamiliar and new places onto a postcard to send to family and friends back home. In my frequent travels around Kosova [Kosovo], there are no picture postcards to buy on which to write down my thoughts. But I am compelled to share these observations, as most inhabitants of Kosova do not visit the territories that I tend to visit. So I have sketched out for you, the reader, a few postcards from regions around Kosova with which you may not be, of late, so well acquainted:

June 2005 - Dear Reader: Upon entering the Serb village of Grace, my official vehicle was stopped and thoroughly checked by Kfor [Kosovo Force] personnel making it a bit complicated even for the Ombudsman to visit. Kfor soldiers asked me about the purpose of the visit, who I was to meet, and what kind of questions I intended to ask. After the checkpoint, my car drove about 50 metres along the road towards the village when it was stopped again. A senior officer was there to ask the same questions and eventually waved my car on when he was satisfied with the answers. In this isolated setting, signs of poverty were difficult to ignore, as in other areas all around Kosova. The people wore worn-out and thin clothes, their faces were skinny. Students regularly travel to school outside the village in a bus that has windows reinforced with steel mesh to protect them from rock-throwers. The bus is accompanied by a special police escort. All in all, after entering and exiting the village, neither proved to be very welcoming nor was the village easily accessible.

June 2005 - Dear Reader: Bellopoje [Belo Polje], a village located just outside Peje [Pec]. The inhabitants here are returnees - for the moment only comprised of male heads of households - who have worked for the better part of two years in an effort, together with a humanitarian organization, to rebuild their lives with the aim of one day calling for their wives and children to join them. Their families stay in Serbia so their children can safely go to school. Today, the reconstruction of their houses is making visible progress, however this is not the first time their homes had to be rebuilt. After having been moderately restored following the 1999 conflict, the houses were again destroyed in March 2004 by people from the neighbourhood. After such a long time the returnees still rely on humanitarian assistance to provide and deliver three meals a day. The big hurdle for return efforts, as in other places, is that the inhabitants cannot get to their agricultural lands as they have been occupied by hostile neighbours. To further complicate the matter, a large proportion of their yards are covered with rubbish dumped over parts of the village. There are no evident efforts to start cleaning these areas, amidst complaints from municipal authorities that such an undertaking would be too expensive. But one cannot help asking the following question: Who allowed people to dump on another person's land in the first place? Probably the same people who allowed this to happen assumed the owners would never return to use their property. To make matters even worse, prospects for employment are merely a matter of dreams. Over the last two years I have heard the same questions, the same problems and the same despair in their voices: they have no idea how to move forward. The efforts regarding returns here seem to be very much concentrated on simply constructing shelter, although important, but it is just one piece of a very complicated puzzle of rebuilding lives. Given these circumstances, and if there is no considerable change, there is a large question mark concerning the sustainability of such returns.

June 2005 - Dear Reader: The enclave of Gorazhdec [Gorazdevac] is not far from Bellopoje. Here, the villagers were never forced from their homes. As in Bellopoje, there is a noticeable Kfor checkpoint at the entrance, which my car is briskly waved through. The enclave still lives under a long shadow which stretches back to the dramatic summer of 2003 during which three children were shot to death by a still unknown perpetrator with a Kalashnikov. Until now, the investigation has not shown any promising results. As in other similar cases there is a perspective that there will never be justice for these crimes. A familiar despair, as among returnees, is obvious here and the question persists: will they need one day to leave this area forever?

June 2005 - Dear Reader: Kuzmin is a village in Fushe Kosova [Kosovo Polje] municipality. The villagers here tend their livestock and farm the fraction of their land that they can reach to earn a living. When I arrived in Kuzmin, I was met by a farmer who could not control his frustration: recently his last cow and tractor were stolen. Over the years, he and his fellow villagers have been repeatedly robbed of their animals, tractors and other farming equipment. Each incident prompted the villagers to inform the police and file reports. Not even once have the police arrested the criminals. Instead, the police response was: you should be lucky that you did not lose your head. Even if certain suspects or perpetrators were identified, the police were not ready to follow through due to the perceived risks involved, which is easy to understand. To lose a life over someone else's tractor is not an appealing concept. This situation indicates the reality particularly in Serb villages which tend to be more vulnerable to these types of crimes. Subsequently, humanitarian organizations have donated cows, seeds and farming equipment to make up for their losses. But over time, even these were stolen and again police did not manage to bring the perpetrators to justice. Of course this cycle creates and sharply contributes to the perception of insecurity.

Dear reader, if there is a sincere will to make a change, to see the reintegration of returnees and to prepare solid ground for Serbs so that they can see a place for themselves here, then more visible efforts by the government and the neighbourhoods must be seen on the ground. This is the only way, also for me, to send different, more colourful postcards from certain regions of Kosova.

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 24 Jun 05 p 10

BBC Mon EU1 EuroPol pj

Copyright 2005 BBC Monitoring Service distributed by United Press International.

Media Monitor is service designed to give M&C readers an insight into how the world's media are reporting the news.

The content is from BBC Monitoring via UPI and supplies news, information and comment gathered from the mass media around the world.

The articles presented here do not reflect the opinion of M&C News, UPI or the BBC.

T Anderson, DC

Anonymous said...

T Anderson,

There is a whole lot of them online on Ombdusman's website. But usually nobody pays attention to him, neither internationals or locals. But I agree that he is quite an asset to Kosova and has definitely entered the popular culture there.

What struck me was that a diplomat became "black in his eyes and red in his face". This is kinda strange for a State Departement guy. Looks like he hasn't smelled the coffee yet.

Chris Blaku said...

Senior political advisors at the state department usually dont become black in the eyes and red in the face, and your imaginary uncle is no exception. Quit passing Serb sob stories around, they created those enclaves, not the Albanians. The Serbian government supports them in those enclaves financially, and they refuse to leave despite Albanians in government pleading them to.

Anonymous said...

Your uncle must be the black sheep of the family. You know that one dumbass that people don't really talk to at the family reunions unless they are giving him shit about something stupid llike turning black in his eyes and red in his face. Besides what kind of a dumbfu*^ goes to his uncle and cries like a little bitch about some stupid article. You and your uncle seem like two peas in a pond, both dumb as hell.

It's alright though, we still love you cause you are a person and you are special.

Anonymous said...

Hey dumbass #1,
there are no freaking senior political advisors at State. Such positions don't even exist. Maybe he is not your uncle. Your mamma lied to you. He is the neighbor who is banging her!!!

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