Kosovo 'will remain separate from Albania'

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The Independent Online
THE PRIME MINISTER of the self-styled republic of Kosova (Kosovo), Bujar Bukoshi, said yesterday his people would wait patiently for an internationally recognised independent state in the formerly autonomous province but would stop short of seeking unification with Albania.

'We think it unrealistic to seek unification,' Mr Bukoshi said in an interview during a visit to London. 'The present policy of the international community is one of not changing borders . . . and Albania has no pretensions towards Kosova.'

The Kosovars, who have created a skeleton society of their own outside Serbian control, would resist any provocation to rise against Serbian aggression, he said. 'Kosova's people have been patient, perhaps too patient, but it would be suicidal to confront Serbia.'

The self-proclaimed independent state, declared in 1991 after the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, ended the province's autonomy, has only been recognised by its southern neighbour, Albania. After the fall of the Communist dictatorship there in 1990, the Kosovars shifted towards union with Tirana, but have increasingly discarded that idea in view of the very real differences between the two peoples.

The aim of an internationally recognised separate state, however, is also unlikely to win the support of the West, which, given its reluctance to tamper with existing borders, favours an autonomous province within Serbia.

The West has also been reluctant to meet Kosovo's call for a 3,000-strong peace-keeping force to be sent to the province, since this would constitute a formal violation of Serbian sovereignty.

Mr Bukoshi said Serbian oppression of ethnic Albanians, who make up more than 90 per cent of the Serbian province, could flare up into aggression at any time. 'People are just waiting to be the next victim. It would be a massacre, because war against the Serbs is not possible.'

The most notorious figure of fear is Commander Arkan, the Serbian whom the US has described as a war criminal and who won a Kosovo seat in the Serbian elections on 20 December. Arkan - who deliberately chose Kosovo to launch his political career with a campaign cry 'to keep the sacred land Serbian' - commands a paramilitary unit known as the Tigers and has been accused of mass murder in Bosnia and Croatia. He is now expected to provoke incidents in Kosovo to provide an excuse for 'ethnic cleansing' there.

Mr Bukoshi said Arkan and his armed men were already roaming the streets of Kosovo. 'Milosevic can activate Arkan anytime he wants,' he added. 'Right now he's busy elsewhere, but he will.'

Serbs view Kosovo, site of the Kosovo Polje battlefield and the Serbian Orthodox patriarchate in Pec, as a sacred part of their historical patrimony. Mr Bukoshi said that this was just an excuse for Serbian 'colonialism'.

'Those monuments belong to us as well. We have taken care of them. They are of no more value than the mosques in Spain - and it would be very unrealistic for, say, Gaddafi to lay claim to Spanish territory.'