Kosovo Reckoning: Blair flies into Pristina for talks and a hero's welcome

TONY BLAIR was due to arrive in Kosovo last night for his first visit since the liberation of the province, bearing the promise of a new "Marshall Aid" plan of economic regeneration for the region.

The Prime Minister was to travel on to Pristina following the Balkan stability summit of 39 states and 17 international organisations in Sarajevo.

He was scheduled to meet General Sir Mike Jackson, the British commander of Nato's Kosovo force, and some of his soldiers, and to hold talks with Bernard Kouchner, the United Nations administrator for Kosovo.

After the meetings, Mr Blair was planning to fly to Macedonia and return today to hold a series of talks with Hashim Thaci, the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, his political rival Ibrahim Rugova, who returned to the province yesterday, and leaders of the Serbian community.

The Prime Minister is also expected to meet the people during a walkabout in the centre of Pristina and at a ceremonial tree planting.

He can be certain of a rapturous reception from the Kosovo Albanians who regard him as being responsible, more than any other Western leader, for delivering them from the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

Among the Kosovar intelligentsia, Mr Blair is also seen as someone who can resolve an increasingly fractious, tense and violent situation in the province.

Mr Rugova, vilified by the KLA for his relative moderation in dealing with the Serbs, stayed away for six weeks in self-imposed exile after the Nato entry into Kosovo because, it is said, he feared for his safety.

His return, on the same day that Mr Blair arrives, is seen as a British diplomatic triumph and provides an alternative focus for those Kosovars who are increasingly apprehensive about the activities of the KLA and their supporters. Yesterday afternoon, Mr Rugova was said to be still worried about his safety, and was locked in talks with British diplomats.

The KLA, which has signed a demilitarisation agreement with Nato, has been accused of intimidating not only Serbs but also, on occasions, Albanian political opponents.

There is a perception in Pristina that Mr Thaci and his party had been "adopted" by the US as heir apparents in Kosovo. His relationship with the American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who was in Kosovo on Thursday, is said to be particularly close. A leading Albanian academic said: "What is happening here is unhealthy. The KLA has been allowed to become the dominant players, and a lot of political figures are frankly afraid of them. They boast about their American connections. We needed Rugova to return and if the British have persuaded him to do so, it's very good."

The Serbs too, it is felt, would welcome the reassurance of Mr Blair. About 100,000 Serbs fled Kosovo after the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army, leaving about 30,000 behind, vulnerable to Albanian attacks.

Britain's chief of defence staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, said that although the KLA appeared to be abiding generally by the peace agreement there were grounds for concern.

"Some members of the KLA still have weapons and still have the capacity to damage the peace process," he said. "A very small minority still have a capacity to cause trouble, kill people in their homes and strike fear into the hearts of some of the Serbs."

Lieutenant Alasdair Truett, of 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, leading a team guarding a Serbian residential area near the university said: "Most of the teaching staff, the professors and their families, have gone off to Serbia. There are about six families left now.

"The scale of what's happening ranges from young Albanians jeering and insulting Serbs to kidnappings and murders. There is systematic looting and attempts to take over Serb property. We are being in confrontation with men who claim to be KLA. If they're illegally armed we disarm them."

One of those who had stayed behind in the area is Professor Vojislav Trajkovic, director of the neuro-psychology centre.

Professor Trajkovic said: "My wife Anna and our three children have gone to Belgrade. But I am staying here, I am a Kosovar. I hope the security situation improves, and I think we shall just about survive as long as Nato are here. If and when they go ..." He drew a finger across his throat.

Three Albanians are still being questioned by Nato in connection with the murder of 14 Serbs from a farming community at Gracko. The Serbs have blamed the KLA for the attack, which the organisation denies.

A graphic example of Serbian atrocities which lie behind the cycle of retribution came yesterday with the revelation of mass graves, said to be the biggest discovered so far.

More than 200 bodies are suspected to be buried at three sites at Cikatovo. The victims are young and old, men and women, and are believed to have been killed elsewhere before their hasty burial.

In the first site there are believed to be about 75 dead; 32 of them have been exhumed. There is a second site believed to hold around 120, and a third with 11.

Heavy rain over the past couple of days has washed away the topsoil from the last area, revealing the corpses.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn