- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2001

Kosovos dominant ethnic Albanians are growing increasingly frustrated with the Wests refusal to commit to independence for the province, a top aide to the provinces leading ethnic Albanian political leader said yesterday.
"We already have a clear vision of our goal — independence from Belgrade," said Dr. Alush A. Gashi, a senior adviser to Ibrahim Rugova, whose Democratic Party of Kosovo dominated the municipal elections in October that were largely boycotted by the provinces minority Serbian population.
"What we dont have is a clear vision from the United States and the international community about what their ultimate goal is," he said. "We are criticized for moving too slowly to build democratic institutions in Kosovo, but it is hard when we have no timetable or long-term plan. This kind of ambiguity has real dangers."
U.S.-led NATO forces came to the aid of Kosovos Albanian community when former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic unleashed a broad campaign of targeted ethnic violence in early 1999.
But having expelled Yugoslav forces and allowed the ethnic Albanian majority to return home, the West and the United Nations have repeatedly postponed a decision on the ultimate status of Kosovo. The United States insists for now that the province remains a part of Yugoslavia and has focused on building local political institutions.
Many analysts and Western governments fear that independence could spark new instability in the Balkans, as other ethnic communities seek to redraw borders in the historically unstable region.
The Kosovo Albanians case has been hurt by recent violence along the provinces borders in southern Serbia and northern Macedonia. The fighting in both places has been blamed on ethnic Albanian separatists with links to extremists groups inside Kosovo itself.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook warned Mr. Rugova and other Kosovar Albanian leaders during a visit to the provincial capital of Pristina Tuesday that they must bring "extremists in the region under control."
"The one thing that would do more to alienate the international community than anything else would be if they felt Kosovo was conniving at extremist violence, destabilizing neighboring regions, whether it is or Macedonia," Mr. Cook told reporters in Pristina.
Dr. Gashi, a physician, yesterday denied there were links between Kosovos leading ethnic Albanian political parties and the armed separatist groups.
He argued that giving Kosovo its independence would actually restrain efforts to create a "Greater Albania" in the region.
"No major political party in Kosovo supports a rewriting of borders. If we should achieve our basic goal of an independent state in Kosovo, why should we seek a Greater Kosovo after that?" he said.
Dr. Gashi said Kosovos Albanians did not share the "international euphoria" that followed the toppling of Mr. Milosevic by a coalition of democratic opposition groups in October. He said many of the architects of Mr. Milosevics ethnic cleansing campaigns remain in power under the new administration of President Vojislav Kostunica, while many Kosovar Albanian activists remain in Serbian prisons.
But Mr. Kostunicas government yesterday earned more Western good will by releasing some 140 Kosovar Albanians who had been convicted of terrorism under Mr. Milosevic.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker hailed the Belgrade move, calling it "important to improving the relations between the Belgrade government and ethnic Albanians in the region."
But Dr. Gashi made clear that even Mr. Rugova, considered a "moderate" in the Kosovar Albanian spectrum, sees little chance of a reconciliation with Serbia.
All of Kosovos ethnic Albanian leaders "agree that the only acceptable solution is independence," Dr. Gashi said. "If thats a radical position, then we are all radicals."

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