Kosovo could one day be self-sufficient - UN envoy
Tue Dec 20, 2005 10:44 PM GMT
By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Kosovo has enough natural resources, including low-grade coal, to one day make it economically self-sufficient, the United Nations mediator for the disputed Serb province said on Tuesday.
Veteran diplomat Martti Ahtisaari, who is leading U.N. talks aimed at determining whether Kosovo gains independence or remains a part of Serbia, said economic development would be a top priority in the negotiations.
Kosovo is heavily subsidised by international donors, and "when the international community knows that there are natural resources which are not exploited, you can't expect the world's taxpayers to finance this forever," Ahtisaari told reporters at U.N. headquarters.
"Everyone wants to create conditions in which these can be properly exploited," he said.
If that happens "I think there is in the future the possibility for sustainable economic development in Kosovo," he said when asked whether it could ever support itself economically.
While still legally part of Serbia, Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since mid-1999, when Serbian forces were driven out to stop what the West said was their persecution of ethnic Albanians during an uprising by Albanian guerrillas.
The province's 2 million Albanians -- 90 percent of the population -- are demanding independence.
Serbs, however, see the mountain-ringed province with its scores of centuries-old Orthodox religious sites as the cradle of their nation and insist it remain a part of Serbia.
Ahtisaari said the World Bank believes that among Kosovo's natural resources were supplies of lignite that would last 50 to 75 years. Lignite is a low-grade form of coal that is used mainly to create steam for power generation.
To exploit the lignite will require significant international help. But when used to generate power, "it will be extremely useful for the economy of Kosovo and also for the provision of energy in the region in general," Ahtisaari said.