U.N. to NATO: Don't Be Tightwads on Refugees

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As guardians of Kosovo’s refugees, NATO are a bunch of deadbeats, according to the U.N. An official in charge of coordinating refugee relief efforts tore into the Western alliance Friday, hoping to shame it into handing over desperately needed cash to resettle the half million returned refugees. "The international community spent billions of dollars on a military campaign that was intended to pave the way for the return of refugees," said Soren Jessen-Petersen, the U.N. assistant high commissioner for refugees. "It is a pity they are not prepared to spend what we have asked for, to see the refugees make it all the way into their villages and reintegrate themselves."

The UNHCR Kosovo operation, which is spending $10 million a week resettling refugees in devastated villages, is only two weeks away from bankruptcy –- only about one third of its $400 million budget has been handed over. "If you can’t reintegrate people into a viable economy and society, then you’re bound to have another explosion in the region," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "Dealing with that explosion will prove a lot more expensive than the development aid necessary to rebuild the region." The U.N. may have been left on the sidelines when NATO went to war, but now it's being asked to clean up the debris and heal the wounds –- and it’s not going to let the West get away with trumpeting a moral victory on the cheap.