Inside the Kosovo peace talks
A bleaker picture emerges than official assessments of how the talksnear Paris are proceeding.
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The US and its partners, and Yugoslavia - now comprising only Serbia and Montenegro - reject independence for the province. Western governments and Russia say granting it could destabilize other parts of the Balkans, especially Bosnia. Serbs, who make up about 10 percent of Kosovo's population, cherish it as the centuries-old cradle of their culture and Christian Orthodox Church.Skip to next paragraph
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The pressure tactics to drop the referendum demand, charges the KLA source, have taken various forms. The five KLA representatives were denied adequate preparation time and their own individual political and legal advisers and translators, he says. The mediators' failure to require an immediate cease-fire by the better-armed Serbs is also aimed at pressuring the ethnic Albanians to compromise, he asserts.
There is psychological pressure, as well, he says. Four KLA negotiators served time in Serbian jails, and being shut away inside the palace "is like being back in a Serbian courtroom for these people," he explains.
He insists such tactics will not work. The mediators "may try to maneuver, but they should know that they are maneuvering with the future of people.... We love peace, but we will continue to fight until we get the right justice."
This much is also known. The delegations are sequestered inside the castle, the stripes on their badges alerting French guards that they are to be stopped from leaving the estate. They work in separate rooms of regal decor, the walls of red and gray marble. But to some the rooms, despite their large size, seem cramped because the delegations are so large.
Meals are taken buffet-style in an ornate dining room of carved wood and high ceilings. The trilling of cellular telephones is constant. There is an excess of officials from the EU, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Contact Group - the US, Italy, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany - which called the talks.
Contrary to widely held expectations, the ethnic Albanians have not resorted to the bickering that many thought would erupt.
Instead, they agreed on a leadership group of Ibrahim Rugova, an advocate of nonviolence and unrecognized "president" of Kosovo; Rexep Qosija, a former Rugova ally; and Hashim Thaci, the KLA's thirtysomething political chief. He was chosen as "coordinator" of the "triumvirate" in a move that appears to reflect the paramount influence of the KLA.
Mr. Thaci was also tapped because he "is the youngest of the group and we are talking about the future," says the general command source.
Advising the ethnic Albanians are private American consultants: Morton Abramowitz, a former ambassador and close friend of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; Marshall Harris of the Washington, D.C.-based human rights group Freedom House, a former US diplomat who resigned to protest US policy on Bosnia; and Paul Williams, a former State Department lawyer who teaches law at American University in Washington.
The three were barred by French officials from the talks until Feb. 8. Still, their presence is of little consolation to the KLA. "Why should not each person have, like in a democratic court, a translator, a lawyer, and an adviser?" asks the general staff source.