Hopes and Hesitations

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Bernard Kouchner, head of the United Nations mission in Kosovo, met last week with TIME's at the former Serb administrative headquarters in Pristina to discuss the future of the province he controls.

TIME: What do you expect these elections to achieve?

Kouchner: Democracy. I hope this is a step toward nonviolent, well-controlled, European-style elections.

TIME: Was the election of Kostunica good for Kosovo?

Kouchner: It is good for the world and good for Kosovo. Albanian leaders have welcomed Belgrade's democratization. But they are still suspicious of Kostunica.

TIME: Could Albanians' fear of losing their dream of independence lead to renewed violence?

Kouchner: For the moment there is no sign of this happening. However, the Albanians accepted a piecemeal approach. It won't be easy.

TIME: Could Kosovo Albanians ever accept rejoining Yugoslavia in a third republic?

Kouchner: It's difficult to sell this idea. Not now; yes in the future.

TIME: When will we see a reduction in NATO-led troops?

Kouchner: Kostunica has first to prove that he's serious about democracy.

TIME: How soon can we anticipate the return of Serb security forces to Kosovo?

Kouchner: No no no. It is impossible. It would mean the start of a bloodbath.

TIME: Wouldn't this be a breach of Resolution 1244 which allows for a return?

Kouchner: Of course. But if we accept what Kostunica says, then we'll all be killed. Whose gain will it be then?

TIME: George W. Bush has spoken of scaling down U.S. involvement. Would his election be bad for Kosovo?

Kouchner: Yes, of course. I'm a leftist guy. I'm all for progress, not conservatism. That's why I'm for Al Gore.