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UN sees progress in Kosovo, Security Council told

UN sees progress in Kosovo, Security Council told

While Kosovo has made progress over the past few months, the province still has a way to go in meeting the benchmarks set to help it to begin the process of determining its future status, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

"Our message is: standards before status," Michael Steiner, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Kosovo and the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK), said in a briefing to an open meeting of the Council.

"Kosovo has not yet achieved the standards that either the international community or its own people demand," he added. "But we can see progress."

While it was difficult to say what Kosovo's future status would be, Mr. Steiner stressed that there would be no partition, no cantonization and no return to the status quo ante of 1999. "The outcome cannot be mono-ethnic but must be multi-ethnic. It must be a democratic, safe and respectable Kosovo on the way to Europe," he said.

Mr. Steiner told the meeting, which also heard statements by representatives from some 20 countries, that Kosovo finally had in place a multi-ethnic government with Serb participation. However, the pace at which UNMIK could transfer further authority to the Provisional Institutions depended on their readiness to assume real responsibilities, he noted.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission and the Kosovo police have been cracking down on organized crime by conducting several successful anti-smuggling operations. "Our policy is zero tolerance for crime and corruption," Mr. Steiner said, adding that a Financial Inspection Unit consisting of a highly experienced team from Italy's Guardia di Finanza has been created o expand the Mission's efforts to fight graft.

UNMIK has also been trying to establish its authority in northern Mitrovica, with the core of its strategy for that city based on effective policing, Mr. Steiner said. He called on Belgrade to stop financing "parallel structures" in the city, stressing that they must be replaced by legitimate institutions.

On the economic front, the UNMIK chief noted that Kosovo took a serious hit 10 days ago with a disastrous fire caused by a lightning strike on one of the province's two main power plants - ensuring power shortages in the months ahead. "Together with the Kosovans we will manage through a number of measures," he said. "But the real problem will come this winter."

As for inter-ethnic relations, Mr. Steiner said that the number of minority returns to Kosovo now exceeded the outflow from it, although he cautioned that the returns process has been too slow.



- Security Council meeting