OT (Overseas Topic) U.N. official calls for talks on Kosovo's "political autonomy "

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U.N. official calls for talks on Kosovo's future

UNITED NATIONS, March 6 (Reuters) - Bernard Kouchner, the chief U.N. administrator for Kosovo, said it was time for talks on political autonomy and a draft interim constitution so all ethnic communities knew what their future would hold.

In a briefing for the Security Council and a news conference with Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, the NATO commander, on Monday, Kouchner also invited council members to come to Kosovo. U.N. officials said he felt there was a "disconnect" between New York and the reality on the ground.

Kouchner said he asked the 15 council members to define what they meant by "substantial autonomy" for the Serbian province.

Until such a discussion begins, the Serb minority in Kosovo fears it is going to be pushed out of the province by ethnic Albanians, who in turn fear NATO will leave and they will be under Belgrade's control.

"We need to start a very clear discussion about the future of all communities," Kouchner said. He said local elections -- to be held, it is hoped, in November -- needed to fit into an overall structure.

The council in June 1999 authorized a U.N.-led civilian mission and directed the NATO-led military, known as KFOR, to take over Kosovo after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign that forced Belgrade to halt the repression of ethnic Albanians.

Reinhardt, the commander in Kosovo, stressed that the relationship between ethnic groups throughout the province was intolerable and "exacerbated by the continuing ambiguity over Kosovo's future."

He said efforts by his forces had been thwarted by a "climate of impunity" that allowed murders, looting, arson and assault. Both Reinhardt and Kouchner called again for more international police, of whom there has been a chronic shortage in Kosovo.

Judges and prosecutors have been added to the want list after the intimidation of local judges, many of whom have failed to sentence anyone.

One question that needed to be answered, Reinhardt said, was whether it was possible for "a territory to function as an autonomous part of a sovereign state whose armed forces have just tried to oust 90 percent of the population."

U.N. officials said his office was expected to draw up an outline of what autonomy in Kosovo would look like and present it to the council for discussion. The body took no decisions during its consultations with Kouchner and Reinhardt.

) copyright 2000 Reuters, Ltd.

-- Possible Impact (posim@hotmail.com), March 07, 2000

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