In Kosovo, a New Deal, but Old Problems

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Kosovo's new power-sharing arrangement may be less a sign of NATO's success in the province than a symbol of its troubles. United Nations administrator Dr. Bernard Kouchner on Wednesday inaugurated a new interim governing body that shares executive power with the international body. The council will be composed of three ethnic-Albanian representatives from different political parties (the KLA's Hashem Thaci and moderates Ibrahim Rugova and Rexhep Qosja.) A fourth seat is reserved for a representative of Kosovo's Serb minority — whose numbers are dwindling in the face of violence by Albanian hard-liners — but thus far the Serbs are staying out.

"This is yet another improvisation," says TIME Central Europe bureau reporter Dejan Anastasijevic. "It's an attempt to share, not only power, but also responsibility for what happens in Kosovo. That may help prepare the way for NATO's eventual withdrawal, but it won't necessarily improve things in Kosovo." Despite the West's commitment to maintain Kosovo's multiethnic character, it has failed to end systematic violence against non-Albanians, which is on its way to creating an exclusively Albanian Kosovo — in line with the KLA's original objective. "A seat on this body will be considered a meaningless token gesture by Kosovo's Serbs as long as attacks continue," says Anastasijevic. "NATO's opportunity to stop the violence by sending a clear and unambiguous message that it won't be tolerated has passed." But the new council marks something of a setback for the KLA, too. Thaci had hoped his movement's "interim government" would be recognized as the de facto representative of the Kosovar people, but Western disquiet over the continuing violence may have put that goal beyond his reach, and the new authority recognizes him simply as one of a number of contenders.