Holbrooke Sets Up U.N. to Catch Kosovo Fallout

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Dick Holbrooke is in the Balkans cracking his whip, but the U.S. ambassadorís diplomatic colleagues at the U.N. may resent his message: that is, if Kosovo is a failure, itíll be the international bodyís fault. On a whirlwind tour of the troubled province Monday, Holbrooke warned that Kosovo would be "the ultimate test of the U.N.ís capability and potential," reiterating Washingtonís message that Kosovo was now the U.N.ís to lose. Although the limited resources available to the international body have plagued its relief, administrative and civilian policing operations, the fundamental obstacle to winning the peace in Kosovo remains the ethnic violence that has continued unabated despite the presence of the NATO-led peacekeeping force.

Holbrooke also met Sunday with leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, pressed his message against revenge attacks on Serbs and expressed confidence that the KLA would disarm by September 19. But it may take more than Holbrookeís powers of persuasion to bring the KLA into line, since the rebel group knows that the last thing NATO wants is a confrontation. "The U.N. canít succeed unless the peacekeeping force can ensure security, and that really depends on NATO," says TIME Central Europe bureau reporter Dejan Anastasijevic. "But if the whole Kosovo mission turns out to be a dramatic failure, itís clear that Washington is going to blame it on the U.N." Thatís not something international diplomats will take lying down, since the U.S. strenuously avoided even discussing the matter at the U.N. when it went to war in Kosovo, and since the international bodyís resources crisis isnít exactly helped by the fact that Washington is delinquent in its dues to the tune of $1 billion.