Friday, April 27, 2007

Fact Finding Mission Kicks Off

The new fact-finding mission kicked off yesterday in Belgrade.  The delegates from the Security Council arrived last night in Pristina for two days of consultations and visits to areas hit hard during the fighting.  Plans are for the delegation to visit Mala Krusha, the village where a UN convoy escorting two war crimes lawyers was attacked last year, and two Serbian villages that were destroyed in the March 2004 riots.  It seems that both sides will try to present the best "sob story" about the abuses suffered to highlight why Kosovo should or should not become independent.  As the delegation was visiting Belgrade, approximately 8,000 Serb IDPs (internally displaced persons) gathered at the Kosovo boundary north of Mitrovica and requested a meeting with the delegation.  Over night, the numbers dropped to around 4000 but as the delegation visits Mitrovica today, the numbers will probably climb again.
In Serbia, still no coalition government has been formed following the elections in January.  It has been suggested that lawmakers are hesitant to form a government as no one wants to take responsibility for "losing Kosovo" should it become independent.  Of course, the person who is ultimately responsible is Slobodan Milosevic but current politicians worry that if something happens on their watch, they will carry the blame.  If no government is formed by May 14th acting President Tadic is obligated to call for new elections.  Western leaders fear that if pro-Western leaders cannot form a coalition before then and elections are held, the more nationalistic parties will win a even larger percentage of the vote.

There was a conference in New York 12-15 April about the 120-day transitional period following approval of Ahtisaari's plan.  Speakers included Madeline Albright and Bill Clinton.  The conference titled "Developing a Strategy for Kosovo's First 120 Days" addressed the challenges that the Kosovo government will face in the transition period and the first years of independence.  So far, the government has been focused mainly on gaining independence not what to do after that goal is achieved.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Local Government Offers Bounty for Tails of Dogs

Kosovo is overrun with stray dogs.  It's estimated that there are around 30,000 stray dogs in Kosovo.  The problem with strays spiraled out of control during and after the fighting when Kosovars abandoned their homes to escape the war.  Many left their pets to fend for themselves and in the dismal, cold winters, some pets became wild and aggressive.  Many of the released dogs were not neutered so the population began to spike even more rapidly.  Programs to capture and neuter the stray population failed to a great degree due to lack of funds and support from the government whose main focus has been gaining independence rather than dealing with social issues.
Now, the local government is answering citizen complaints about the stray population and hosting "culling contests" where local hunters are invited to shoot dogs on the streets of the towns and collect a prize of 7.5 Euros for each tail they deliver.  The hunters are escorted by local police and pubic service workers who supervise the hunt and clean up the bodies.  In Mitrovica, several hundred dogs have already been culled by hunters.

<soapbox>Previously, British and Norwegian KFOR organized culling programs but due to great criticism of the program and the cruelty both halted their operations.  The problem with these culling programs is that the people in Kosovo have suffered enough trauma and having packs of hunters going through the towns and killing dogs is a violent solution.  If the Kosovo government really wants to address the issue, they can organize "contests" to capture dogs and take them to the donation supported animal shelter by the airport.  Aggressive dogs that cannot be rehabilitated can be put to sleep (a much more humane method of culling) and those that are not aggressive but rather just left to unfortunate circumstances can be taken care of and hopefully adopted by a local or international.

The idea of the government actually sponsoring and giving a bounty for hunters to go around a city and shoot dogs honestly turns my stomach with disgust.  Shooting dogs is not a proper method of culling as often the shooter can fail to kill the dog with a single shot and the less aggressive dogs that are friendly towards people are killed first.  What is left after the culling are dogs that are injured and more aggressive towards humans because of the incident and dogs that were already aggressive towards people as they will not allow hunters to get near enough for a shot.</soapbox>

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Balkan Domino

The new fact-finding mission is due to arrive in Kosovo tomorrow and stay until Saturday.  The members of the Security Council are due to visit villages on both sides that suffered during the fighting and the 2004 riots.  There is much speculation of what will happen when the mission visits.  It is expected that thousands of Serb refugees will amass at the border.  Russia has also been threatening to possibly use their veto rights in the Security Council but so far have not confirmed or denied whether or not they actually will do so. 
There has been a lot of discussion about what will happen if the Security Council does not agree to Ahtisaari's plan or at least a watered-down version of the plan which gives Kosovo independence.  The most interesting of the discussions is what I would term the "Balkan Domino".  Much like the domino effect that the US feared during the Cold War, the Balkan domino is a situation that many believe will occur if Kosovo Albanians decide to unilaterally declare independence and Western countries (like the US) begin to recognize it.  People believe that then the Serbs in Northern Kosovo will declare independence, then Presevo Valley in Serbia, and then Tetevo, and then part of Montenegro...etc.  They all will claim that a precedent was set by the unilateral declaration of independence and demand the same international recognition.  Whether or not this domino effect will become a reality is hard to say...but it is one theory that is being passed around the international community.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Watch Out, Here I Come!

Over the weekend, I purchased a steering wheel at the Skopje Trade Center (or the big mall in the center).  Now I am completely hooked on Need 4 Speed Underground 2 :)  When I get in the 4Runner to go somewhere, I have to remind myself that I'm not playing the game anymore and I can't run people off the road *hehe*  So, friends, if you are trying to chat with me, buzz me as the game takes the entire screen and I won't know you are there unless you make some noise!

In a more serious light, today a Spanish KFOR soldier was killed and another injured in a serious car accident in northwestern Kosovo.  The soldiers were conducting a four-man patrol when their vehicle overturned.  No other vehicles were involved in the accident.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Weekend Wrap-up

Vetevendosje activists were busy this weekend spraying 8-UN vehicles with the Albanian word for murderer/killer (Vrases) in Pristina, Prizren, and Mitrovica.  38 people were detained and questioned in Gnjilane, Mitrovica and Prizren over the incidents.  Most of the vehicles were parked when the activists painted them but the one incident in Pristina occurred when the activists stopped a passing vehicle. 
Two children accidentally drowned in Gracanica Lake over the weekend.  At least one or two children drown in Kosovo's lakes or pools each year that I can recall.  The most common cause of the drowning is just lack of adult supervision.  An investigation is ongoing into the recent deaths. 

On Friday, an iman from Kacanik reported that unknown persons threw a Molotov cocktail on his vehicle and caused minor damages.  Over the weekend, one Albanian was arrested in conjunction with the attack and another is at large.

There were two electrical fires in Pristina and Lipjan due to illegal electrical connections.  Several meters of cabling was destroyed in the incidents.  Illegal connections to the electrical network is commonplace in Kosovo, especially during construction or in villages.  It is interesting to watch how the local population hooks up to the network...they take a long pole with a hook on the end and toss it over the power line.  The most important thing for them to remember is to let go before it friend witnessed what happens when they forget...not pretty.

On the topic of fires, there has been a series of forest fires in Kosovo.  A estimated 553 hectares of forest has been destroyed in the past two months.  The causes of the fires are both natural and man-made.  There is little education about fire prevention and some of the fires are thought to have been set accidentally or intentionally by humans.  Illegal woodcutting has also contributed to the problems.  The other factor having a lot of impact is the warm winter with relatively little snow.  The forests are a bit more dry than normal increasing the chances of fire.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Commemoration Ceremonies

It seems that I am updating this blog on a regular basis now!  There is so much going on lately on in politics and in Pristina that my fingers are keeping busy!  In addition to trying to keep up with all the news, I've been running around with my camera trying to get photos of the sights around Kosovo since the dismal grey of winter skies appears to have passed.
Yesterday many of us were trying to figure out why the streets were lined with Albanian flags.  It almost looked like Flag Day with all the street lights and poles decorated with a duo of the flags.  None of our Albanian friends knew what was happening or why the flags were hung up...but today I figured it out.  Yesterday there were several commemoration ceremonies around Kosovo for the victims of the fighting in 1999.  Around 600 Albanians in two different villages participated in the ceremonies organized by the KLA War Veterans Association.

The BBC focuses on Kosovo peacekeeping in the forth of their series on peacekeepers.  The article goes with French KFOR patrol enclaves in northern Kosovo, their area of responsibility.

Next week, the fact-finding mission will visit Kosovo next week.  Kosovo Serb representatives are unhappy that the mission will not be visiting minority enclaves and have labeled the visit "tourist" in nature.  The spokesman, Oliver Ivanovic, has questioned the nature of the visit and stated "our conclusion is that their intention is not to determine the facts" and goes on to say that the mission is just trying to reach the same conclusion as Ahtisaari, ignoring the concerns of the minority population.  Serbs from around Kosovo have stated that they travel to meet the mission in Mitrovica as it visits and refugees who were expelled from their homes following 1999 have said that they will attempt to return to their homes as the mission is visiting to demonstrate the problems they face.

Meanwhile, the EU has removed the topic of Kosovo from the next meeting of foreign ministers as disunity continues over support for Ahtisaari's proposal.  The topic of "Western Balkans" is expected to be put back on the agenda in May after the UN fact-finding mission visits.  Slovakia, Romania, and Greece expressed serious concerns over independence in Kosovo while Spain, Italy, and Cyprus have indicated reservations about independence based on the Ahtisaari proposal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Romanian Police Found Responsible for Deaths of Protestors

An investigation into the deaths of two Albanian protestors on 10 February has released interim findings.  The investigation found that the Romanian Police were responsible for the deaths of two protestors and the serious wounding of two others but concluded that there was insufficient evidence to identify the officers that fired the bullets.  The bullets were a type exclusively used by the Romanian officers and had an expiration date of 1994.  The UN in New York is looking into why expired ammunition but police commissioner Richard Monk has stated that the UN would "expect that that units coming here would adhere to the manufacturer's rules" and that is not within the UN's capacity to issue regulation on the age of bullets.
The shootings were deemed "unwarranted and unjustified".  The UN-appointed prosecutor, Robert Dean, has stated that "the acts of one, two, or three in firing rubber bullets improperly or in a criminal manner, which I think happened, cannot necessarily be imputed to all others" and urged the UN and the Romanian government to consider compensation for the families of the victims.

Yesterday afternoon, around 20 Vetevendosje supporters spray-painted two UNMIK vehicles downtown.  I think there was enough notification of the protest for people to avoid the area and prevent the vandalism of the vehicles.  In Prizren, another two vehicles were spray-painted with the word "Vrases" (Murderer/Killer).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Kosovo to be Independent By Summer?

Deputy special envoy to Kosovo, Albert Rohan, has been quoted as saying that Kosovo will probably be independent by summer.  Rohan stated that he believed that the Security Council would vote on a resolution by the end of May and that the plan Ahtisaari proposed "has no alternative".  He also warned that while the situation is currently stable in Kosovo, that it was volatile enough that any incident could result in more widespread violence.  Rohan said that this could create "negative press" for the Kosovo Albanians.  Which especially makes sense if there is violence against minorities in my (humble) opinion.  The threats of violence if Albanians do not achieve independence is not anything new but it does make one wonder if all the support for independence is just to pacify the Albanians so there is not a repeat of 2004???  And is it because the international community doesn't have to face the fact that they may not have everything under control as they believe they do?  Hmmm, it does make one wonder if things are as good as politicians say they are!
In Glogovac, around 200 former workers who were protesting the privatization of their company (Ferronickel) were able to negotiate with the managers and make a settlement where some would be re-employed.  The former employees protested for two days, blocking workers from entering the workplace yesterday.  Fortunately the issue was settled through negotiation and no incidents were reported.

Today's unusual Kosovo news is that a man reported that he was stopped by two people wearing KPS uniforms.  The unknown "officers" stopped his vehicle, robbed him, and threatened to kill him if he reported the incident to the police.  Ouch...

1300 CET:  Well, after reporting that things were quiet yesterday, Vetevendosje struck out at the UN again today.  Activists went downtown and spray-painted more vehicles.  I've heard that one of the vehicles that was sprayed in the last week actually belonged to the SRSG's protection team.   I'm just wondering how many of the activists participating today were from the group that are serving suspended sentences?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Vetevendosje's Busy Weekend

Vetevendosje activists were busy spray-painting UN vehicles over the weekend.  Roving groups of 20-30 activists sprayed "Vrases/Vrasjes" (Murderer/Killer in Albanian) on 14 UN and one private car (owned by a UN-employee) in downtown Pristina. An UNMIK International Police officer attempting to prevent the vandalism was sprayed. On Friday, around 25 activists attempted to spray-paint the blast barrier of Mission HQ but police intervened. A total of 21 activists were detained during the day. However, the blast barrier was sprayed again on Saturday/Sunday but no incidents/arrests were reported.  Fifteen of the arrested appeared in court on Saturday. One person was sentenced to 20 days for damaging property and obstructing police (probably the guy that sprayed the officer) while the others received suspended sentences. Two of the six activists remaining in detention declared a hunger strike, protesting against alleged Serbian products provided in the meals served.

Today (Monday) was quiet with no activities reported...maybe the fact that the police are now authorized to stop them from vandalizing UN property has made them think twice (finally!) Before UNMIK police were told that they could not stop the activists from putting up posters or spray-painting UN property but instead were supposed to try to take photographs so the activists could later be identified (should anyone decide that they would be arrested at a later time...which rarely happened). Now, the police commissioner has authorized the police to stop Vetevendosje protestors (it's about damned time!)  The building maintenance crews are tasked with repainting the blast barrier when it is sprayed and they've been keeping very busy.  If no one is going to stop the activists from spray-painting the wall and they only wait for the wall to be repainted before going and vandalizing it what is the point?!  The UN is just wasting the time of the workers and money on the paint :P  But things like this is why we have the joke that we are a UN-efficient organization :o)

There are photos of the activists and the graffiti on Vetevendosje's photo gallery.  It is interesting to view the photos of the arrests.  Rather than go peacefully with the police, it appears that the activists tried to run away and resist arrest.  Plus, some of their fellow activists are standing around with digital cameras and taking pictures...absolutely bizarre!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Happy Tax Day!

Today I headed north to Mitrovica to Sparky's American Grill (Rr. Ulqinit #195, 028 30 546) on the south-side.  Reputed to have the best American breakfast around, Sparky's offers a nice spread of American favorites like biscuits w/ gravy and hamburgers.  Ordering and getting service was bit of an experience because our waitress hardly spoke or understood any English.  Why a person would be hired to work in a restaurant who can't comprehend English is beyond me but a friend explained that the girl was a relative of the owner (and families are close-knit in Kosovo).  So basically, even if a person isn't the most qualified for a position, in Kosovo if they are family they will get a job and jobs are hard to come by in Kosovo with more than 50% unemployment.  I would imagine that there are few of the same employment opportunity laws that citizens of Western countries enjoy and in Kosovo, if you don't get the job you just don't get the job.  Thinking back though, there was a scandal at the Pristina airport about jobs for money a while maybe there are some laws in Kosovo...but I digress...back to Sparky's and our non-English comprehending waitress!
So today at Sparky's, in an effort to get ranch dressing for my Chicken Ranch sandwich, I ended up going into the kitchen and speaking to the cook as the waitress was not able to understand what any of the three Americans were trying to explain :o)  As it turns out, the restaurant was out of ranch so I ended up with just a chicken sandwich...but, I do have to say the homemade honey mustard dressing made for a mean combination in the absence of the ranch :)  The experience does remind me of the phrase that we've coined in Kosovo though "order what you want and eat what you get".  In most places, if the restaurant was out of something, they'd come tell you...but not in Kosovo...if they are out of something, you get whatever the cook decides what to substitute!  It makes dining out an interesting affair at times :o)

But would I recommend Sparky's American Grill?  Heck yeah!  With a great western (we are talking cowboys & country music!) atmosphere, nice food, and a slick pool table, I can see how the grill quickly became one of the most popular hang-outs for Americans in Mitro.  I have to admit that I'm looking forward to going back and trying the biscuits with gravy or the Spanish omelet :)

Today we were blessed with excellent weather and blue skies so I went out with my camera :)  There are a ton of new Kosovo pictures in my photo album from Pristina to Mitrovica.  Right now most of the photos can be found in the General Pictures section but I did find one special "Only in Kosovo" photo today :)  I will work on organizing the General section this week as it is getting large after all these years...but until then enjoy the many photos!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rugova's Ex-Security Chief Arrested

The security chief of late President Rugova has been arrested on tax evasion charges.  Rame Muraj was reportedly running an intelligence service for the late president and had his NGO shut-down in 2006.  Muraj has had a low profile for the past year and been working as a newspaper publisher. 
The Security Council has officially approved a fact-finding mission to assess Kosovo's future.  In addition, the mission will review progress in Kosovo since 1999, possibly reviewing the implementation of SC Resolution 1244, something that some politicians say has been violated since day one of the mission.  The point that is largely argued is that the resolution states that Kosovo is a part of Serbia and diplomats have been upset by the Ahtisaari proposal as they see independence for Kosovo a violation of Serbia's sovereignty and international law.

Analysts have stated that partition might be the best and most realistic solution for Kosovo rather than straight independence as recommended by Ahtisaari.  Many believe that Ahtisaari's plan is not the most realistic and will be difficult to sustain, including Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Assassination Attempt on Kosovo Telecomms Director

Yesterday at approximately 1615hours, two rocket propelled grenades were fired at the Kosovo Telecomms Director, Anton Berisha, and his police escort near Malishevo.  This is the second time that an attempt has been made on Berisha's life.  During the attack, one grenade hit a KPS vehicle and an officer was injured in the leg. 
Three Albanians were later arrested in connection with the attack.  One of the suspects was found with two grenades and a grenade launcher was found at the scene of the attack.  After questioning, an additional four Albanians were arrested and some more ordinance was recovered in Pristina.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vetevendosje Strikes Again

1230 CET:  Reports are coming in that the Vetevendosje group is attacking UN vehicles downtown.  They are spray-painting vehicles, stopping them in traffic or parked along the roads.  The one vehicle that I saw a couple minutes ago had "Vrasj├»¿½s" (Killer/Murderer in Albanian) stenciled neatly on the sides and hood. There must have been a clearance sale on spray paint somewhere in Kosovo because the cars aren't the only UN property to suffer.  In the past couple of days members of the group have been actively defacing the blast barrier outside Mission HQ with the phrase "Free Albin Kurti" and "Vrasj├»¿½s" and some vehicles. 

Yesterday, the activists spray painted the wall three times, four times the day before...I guess they basically waited until the paint dried and went out with fresh cans of paint during the day. The total damage in Vetevendosje's campaign was eight UN vehicles, a UN bus, and again several paintings of the blast barrier. 

The UN has hit one of its lowest ratings in popularity in Kosovo.  A survey has put approval of the UN at just 24%, just one percent higher than after the 2004 riots that left 19 people dead.  The reason for the low approval is that many locals (Albanian and Serbian) blame the UN for the political and economic limbo they have faced since 1999.  And even with the assurances for minorities in Ahtisaari's proposal, 10% of Serbs interviewed said they would leave if Kosovo became independent and another 30% had not yet decided if they would stay or go.

Other interesting Kosovo news includes a shoot-out between unknown males and KPS near the Albanian border in Decani.  KPS supposedly came under fire from two males who fled towards Albania after the officers returned fire.  There was also a large explosion in Suvareka near a restaurant that destroyed the doors and windows.  It is not yet know what kind of device was used.

Last night for our weekly Wednesday dinner, we decided to head north towards Obilic for dinner at Hotel Amazona (044 454 454).  Located on the Pristina-Mitro highway about one km after the second turn-off to Obilic (Kastriot/Besiane), Amazona has a beautiful outside seating area with a park setting (complete with fountains!)  The outside setting will be great when the weather is good (the indoor is clean and nice too but it is nothing special).  The food is good with the normal selection of steaks, trout, and traditional salads.  The traditional Albanian bread is a great treat but make sure that you order early as it takes some time for it to be prepared so order one up as you are deciding on what to eat/drink.  Try to ask for the garlic/butter sauce for the fish when you order too...we got our after everyone had already eaten most of their fish :o)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kosovo Ministers Fail to Submit Reports

More than half of Kosovo government ministers have failed to submit the property status reports as required by law.  The lawmakers have four more days to comply with the extended deadline before they are publicly identified and face a 20% reduction in their salaries.

Only 4 of the 15 members of the Security Council voted to support Ahtisaari's proposal in the first round of talks on the future status.  Senior Chinese and Russian diplomats are expected to visit Serbia next week to discuss the proposal.  Serbian President, Boris Tadic, has stated that Serbia will never accept an independent Kosovo and that exchanging Kosovo for entrance into the EU is unacceptable.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Two Children Injured by Land Mine

Over the weekend in Prizren, two children were injured by a land mine.  A boy found what is believed to be an anti-personnel mine and put it in his pocket and went to play basketball.  After playing with his friends, he sat down to rest and the mine exploded.  A girl nearby was also injured in the explosion and one of the children remains in critical condition. 
I remember when I went through orientation in 2001, the UN estimated that Kosovo was 99% de-mined.  However, to this day, new fields and new ordinance continue to be found all over Kosovo despite all the efforts to remove them.  There have been occasions over the past few years that the Serbian military has given coordinates for mine fields (I recall one of the last I knew about was around two years ago on the way to Prizren) and the area de-mined.  The problem with landmines and unexploded ordinance is that they are often placed and either the location is forgotten or incorrectly recorded.

Some information has emerged about the one Kosovo lawmaker who voted against supporting Ahtisaari's plan last week.  Numan Balic, a Bosniak lawmaker, was the single dissenting voice against supporting the Ahtisaari plan stating that he does not understand why the Albanian lawmakers can give their blind support.  Balic fully supports independence but does not agree to the portions of the plan that gives special protection to the Serb population as it makes the minority equal to the majority.

Meanwhile, back in the US, several key politicians are preparing (or have prepared) a Senate resolution supporting Ahtisaari's proposal and urging Bush to increase pressure on the Security Council to adopt the proposal.  Well-known senators such as Joseph Biden and Lieberman and John McCain also want to quickly establish diplomatic ties with Kosovo.

Kosovo has also opened an informal diplomatic office in New York.  UN Security Council resolution 1244 which created the mission in Kosovo prohibits interim Kosovo institutions from opening diplomatic missions.  The opening has drawn criticism as Kosovo did not seek permission from UNMIK to open the new office.  However, Kosovo politicians are arguing that the office is an informal mission and therefore they did not need to ask permission from the UN.  The office will most likely be used to try to persuade members of the Security Council to endorse Ahtisaari's proposal.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Off to Greece!

It's Easter weekend and the perfect time to open up the Greek-end (hehe, get it?!) trips to Paralia, Katerini!  In just about six hours, you are on the beach, kicking back and relaxing :)  The water will still be a bit cold at this time of year so we plan on heading to Thessalonica for a bit of shopping on Saturday afternoon.  I'll update my travel log when I get back with the details of the fun!
Yesterday, the Kosovo parliament overwhelmingly (100-1, 19 absent) voted to support Ahtisaari's proposal.  In addition to putting their support, Kosovo politicians pledged to "fully implement" the package should the Security Council approve it and welcomed the civilian and security personnel that would be created as part of the package.

Meanwhile, Balkan Investigative Report Network published two articles on how the EU must be accountable when they take over the mission and how Ahtisaari's plan has taken the steam out of Vetevendosje's protests.

And the Supreme Court in Serbia has upheld a 13-year sentence for KLA fighter Anton Lekaj who was found guilty of torture and rape during the 1998-1999 war.  Lekaj's defense team was trying to appeal to have him sent back to Kosovo.  Lekaj and a group of Albanians attacked a wedding party of Romas and took 11 hostages as the Serb forces were retreating in June 1999.  They raped one girl and sexually abused a man before executing four of the hostages.  Most war crimes trials are out of the jurisdiction of Serbia and held in the Hague however Lekaj was arrested in 2004 while stealing cars in Montenegro and extradited to Belgrade to face charges.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Elderly Serbs Attacked

An elderly Serbian family was attacked in the administrative zone between Serbia and Kosovo on Tuesday, allegedly by a group of Albanians coming from Kosovo.  The attackers beat a 74-year-old man and his sister and then stole their livestock in the village of Velika Braina.  Police have not yet issued any statements.
More news has emerged that the UN Security Council will most likely be sending a mission to Kosovo and Serbia sometime this month to do a fact-finding investigation of the situation on the group and possibly look into the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1244.  The mission would likely not be lead by a member of the EU but rather one of the 10 non-permanent nations currently serving in the council.  The mission would go to Belgrade and Pristina to determine if Ahtisaari's proposal is the "best way to move forward" and report back to the council.  After the mission was completed, a resolution could be expected but this will probably push any possibility for resolution to early May at best.

There was another explosion in Gjakove/Dakovica last night when an unknown person threw two hand grenades into neighboring Albanian yards.  One device exploded and the other one was found and destroyed by KFOR EOD.  Also, around 600 people attended a rally supporting ex-PM Ramush Haradinaj in Prizren.  Haradinaj is currently answering war crime charges in the Hague.  He still remains a popular and influential political figure in Kosovo.

Well, friends, it's pretty much official now.  I will be staying in Kosovo until the end of the year and then probably moving on to another mission.  There are a couple different options I am exploring (East Timor, Ivory Coast, and Sudan) but since I have a commitment to stay here until December it will be several more months before I have anything definitive in place for after the New Year.  I would like to go home for Christmas and New Year so I'm going to try to wrangle a little bit of time off in between the mission transfer.  But until I go, this blog will continue with stories of life in Kosovo and the politics of the ongoing debate about final status :o)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Security Council Discusses Kosovo

Today, the UN Security Council discussed the future status of Kosovo behind closed doors.  Several members of the council (including Russia which holds veto power) have expressed concerns over the supervised independence proposed while other members such as the US are pushing for a quick resolution to the status question.  Assistant Secretary of State, Daniel Fried, warned that if status is not resolved soon that Kosovo may descend into violence and that the status quo is not sustainable.  The British ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, said that the council will probably decide in the next few days whether or not to send a team to evaluate the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1244 as Russia has suggested and went on to say that there will probably be more discussions during the month.  This means that there probably will not be any decision on the status of Kosovo at least for several more weeks.

Meanwhile, Pavel Kandel, a department head of the Institute of Europe in the Russian Academy of Sciences has put forth that in the last battle of Kosovo there may be no winners.  The opinion article raised interesting questions about the current and future politics surrounding the issue of Kosovo's status.
Unknown persons threw two Molotov cocktails at municipal vehicles parked in a parking lot yesterday.  Damage was reported to one vehicle.  Someone also set fire to an electric pole connecting a minority village to the power supply.  Thefts of doors to power stations, cabling, and poles are frequently reported...but why anyone would steal portions of the electric company's infrastructure is beyond me!

I went out with my camera a bit on the weekend and got some photos of life around Pristina.  I finally got a decent picture of Clinton...I normally took photos when it was cloudy and grey which makes Kosovo look more depressing that people say it is :o)  And thanks to TW for the photo that I added to my "Only in Kosovo" section...I don't think any comment is needed!

Monday, April 2, 2007

More News on Monastery

More news has come out about the attack on the Decani monastery on Friday night.  A grenade launcher was found on a hill overlooking the monastery but may not have been used in the attack (possibly just remnants of the previous fighting) but an anti-tank rocket was found lodged in the wall of the monastery.  Minor damage to the roof of the wall has been reported.  NATO has tightened security around the monastery following the attack and members of the Contact Group has condemned the incident stating that "all such violence against the Serb community or the Serbian Orthodox Church is absolutely impermissible and intolerable." 
Along the lines of NATO tightening security in Kosovo, read about NATO's new threat levels (it's a joke, okay!)

A blast in the town of Gjakove/Dakovica at a hotel injured an employee over the weekend.  When police arrived at the scene and searched the hotel, they found the body of a 25-year-old Albanian woman in one of the rooms.  The cause of her death is not yet known.  The explosion is thought to have been caused by a hand grenade and no suspects have yet been detained although the reports have identified the perpetrator as a male. In Gjilane, an explosive device was discovered attached to an Albanian's vehicle and KFOR was called.  The device had to be destroyed on the spot and when KFOR exploded the device, the vehicle caught fire (and was destroyed) and several windows in nearby houses were blown out.

The official number from the UN for the protest puts the crowd at just 800 people.  The group demanded the release of Albin Kurti, protested against Ahtisaari's proposal, and criticized UNMIK and PISG.  This protest did not have the same numbers as previous protests and was over rather quickly compared to other protests.  Kurti is a charismatic leader but his replacement, Glauk Konjufca, does not seem to be able to rally the group's supporters in the same way.  Kurti is facing charges for inciting violence and is reported to have gone on a hunger strike last week.

It was brought to my attention that an organization (particularly dealing with American police officers in Kosovo) has taken a photo from my website and used my photo in a Kosovo presentations on their own website.  While I am flattered that my photos are good enough to represent life in Kosovo, I am disappointed that no one from the company requested to use my photos and no credit was given to my website.  I will be going through my photos and adding a link to the website to prevent this unethical type of web-theft.  I have given permission to others to use my photos with credit or a link back to my site and will continue to do so.  If you like my photos and want to share them, just shoot me an email and I can send you a photo without the watermark.  It's not that hard to give credit :P