Ethnic row keeps Kosovo in the dark

ONE MONTH after the liberation of Kosovo, talks aimed at restoring the province's television and radio services have broken down amid bitter disagreements between Albanian and Serb journalists.

The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (Unmik) is now being forced to plan its own broadcasts after failing to broker a deal between Albanians, sacked by the Belgrade government almost 10 years ago, and the Serbs who replaced them.

It is easier to get information about Kosovo in London than in the province's capital, Pristina. Few people have working telephones, many televisions and radios were destroyed or looted during the Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing, and in the absence of authoritative information, rumours and gossip are inflaming tensions.

The television and radio dispute epitomises the problem facing many of Kosovo's institutions. In 1990, Albanian professionals, including doctors, lawyers, academics and journalists, were sacked from their jobs in state companies by Slobodan Milosevic's government, and replaced by Serbs. Almost a decade later, they are impatient to return to their jobs, and reluctant to work alongside those who deposed them.

"Unmik has the idea that these two groups of people should be on the same level," says Bajram Kosumi, Minister of Information in the provisional government formed by Kosovo Albanians. "Their proposal is that in the TV station there should be, say, 20 Serbs and 20 Albanians. But Albanians are a majority - that would mean that every second Serb gets a job and only every tenth Albanian."

UN officials deny that they are imposing quotas.