The top United Nations administrator of ethnically-divided Kosovo, Harri Holkeri, today announced his intention to resign for health reasons, just 10 months after he was appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and two weeks after he was briefly hospitalized for fatigue.
Mr. Holkeri, a former Finnish prime minister, is expected to return to Kosovo soon to finalize his mission and make farewell calls on leaders of the province, which has been under UN administration for almost five years since NATO forced the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops after fighting between the Albanian and Serb communities.
He told a news conference in Helsinki his decision was made solely on health reasons and was taken in consultation with Mr. Annan.
In March the deadliest ethnic violence to sweep Kosovo since the UN administration began in 1999 left 19 people dead, nearly 1,000 injured, and hundreds of homes and centuries-old Serbian cultural sites razed or burned.
While deploring these riots as a tremendous step back, Mr. Holkeri said today he hoped Kosovo's problems would be resolved and it would be dropped from the list of international trouble spots.
“He has led the mission with dedication, commitment, and a strong desire to assist Kosovo in overcoming the conflicts of the past,” Deputy Special Representative Charles Brayshaw said in a statement paying tribute.
Mr. Holkeri, Finland's Prime Minister from 1987 to 1991, succeeded Michael Steiner, a senior German diplomat, last July, becoming the fourth Special Representative and chief of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), after Hans Haekkerup of Denmark and Bernard Kouchner of France.
He also served as the President of the 55th session of the UN General Assembly in 2000, and brought to the Kosovo mission a wealth of political experience, as well as a reputation as a skilled mediator and consensus builder.
In his last briefing to the Security Council earlier this month, he said the March violence had shaken UNMIK "to its foundations" but it was determined to root out and punish the perpetrators while remaining resolute in its task to help prepare the province for self-governance.