Secretary-General Kofi Annan has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, a veteran United Nations trouble-shooter, as his Special Envoy to lead the political process to determine the future status of the ethnically divided, UN-administered Serbian province of Kosovo.
"Mr. Ahtisaari's excellent negotiating skills, proven leadership, previous experience with the United Nations and knowledge of the Balkans make him the ideal person for this endeavour," spokesman Stephane Dujarric told the daily noon briefing of the former president, who led the UN operation that oversaw Namibia's independence from South Africa in 1990.
The Security Council last week endorsed the start of talks on the future status of the province where ethnic Albanians outnumber others, mainly Serbs, by about nine to one, and which the UN has run since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave human rights abuses in fighting between Albanians and Serbs in 1999.
Possible status options could include independence, a position rejected by Serbia, or autonomy, and Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, has warned of possible provocations from all sides during the process.
Mr. Ahtisaari has most recently served as Mr. Annan's Special Envoy for the Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa. From 1977 to 1981 he served as UN Commissioner for Namibia. In 1984 he became the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Namibia and from 1989 to 1990 headed the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in the southern African country.
He was appointed Under-Secretary-General for Administration and Management in 1987, a position he held until 1991. In 1993 he served as the Secretary-General's Special Representative for the former Yugoslavia.
Mr. Ahtisaari has also served in crises positions outside the UN, including inspection of Irish Republican Army (IRA) arms dumps. He was chairman of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Working Group of the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia in 1992-93.
Mr. Ahtisaari, who was President of Finland from 1994 to 2000, is chairman of the international board of the War-Torn Societies Project.