- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2004

Kosovo laws updated

Transnational crime analysts for years have been looking at the Balkans with dismay, wondering how to slow the traffic on its smugglers’ superhighway.

So it was good news when the U.N. Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) issued a regulation on Friday that requires banks, nongovernmental organizations, political parties and any entity that handles large amounts of cash to report transactions to UNMIK’s new Financial Information Center.

“This is a major step forward, a powerful tool that we have to fight money laundering — and by implication, penetration of the economy — by organized crime,” Jean-Christian Cady, the acting head of UNMIK, said in Pristina on Friday.

The new rules, which take effect March 1, are necessary, said Harri Holkeri, the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general in Kosovo and de facto leader in Pristina.

“The Balkans are east of the West and west of the East,” Mr. Holkeri, a Finn, said in an interview Friday after briefing the U.N. Security Council on the situation in Kosovo. “It’s a smuggling route, a trafficking route, for everything … money, people, cars.”

If the new rules are enforced, it would set Kosovo above scores of countries in terms of financial transparency and accountability — two qualities that asset-shelterers hate. It’s not yet clear whether Kosovo eventually will become a sovereign state or return to being a mainly Muslim province in mostly Christian Serbia.

Belgrade has made it plain that it will not tolerate losing Kosovo, and Kosovars are equally intractable about returning to their old status.

The failure of the international community to decide Kosovo’s fate remains a problem, Mr. Holkeri told The Washington Times. The United Nations has administered Kosovo since June 1999.

“This final status is the biggest thing for everyone,” he said, “but the question itself is totally in the hands of the Security Council.”

Green Line wiggles

It looks as if there might be some movement on Cyprus this week. Yes, really.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has invited key figures to New York tomorrow to discuss his new peace proposal. After much drama in their respective capitals, Greek-Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash over the weekend confirmed they will attend — reluctantly.

Mr. Annan, whose famed patience might be fading as the European Union’s membership deadline for Cyprus looms, has insisted on a March 25 deadline for negotiations on the island’s fate, as well as a commitment from both sides that the United Nations will be the final arbiter of unresolved issues. The United Nations wants separate referendums by April 21 approving a federation.

Both leaders were en route to New York yesterday, but not before grumbling to reporters at home that they would not accept such pressure from Mr. Annan.

Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in 1974, after the Cypriot national guard, led by officers of the Greek army, overthrew the government in Nicosia. Greece had been a military dictatorship since late 1967. The United Nations has maintained a peacekeeping mission along the island’s dividing Green Line for nearly three decades.

Tut-tut, Utah

Utah’s House of Representatives urged the U.S. Congress last week to withdraw from the United Nations, which it called a threat to American sovereignty.

The nonbinding resolution, which reportedly passed by a 42-33 vote, favors “freeing the nation from a large financial burden and retaining the nation’s sovereignty to decide what is best for the nation and determine what steps it considers appropriate as the leader of the free world in full control of its armed forces and destiny.”

Conservative lawmakers in Utah long have warned that the United Nations is plotting to take over the United States and create a world government.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at UNear@aol.com.

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