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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kosovo Aid Facing Funding Problems

GENEVA -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his newly appointed administrator for Kosovo said Tuesday that it will still take weeks to establish a police force and civilian staff in the Yugoslav province.

The reconstruction of Kosovo "is a huge challenge," said Bernard Kouchner, the activist French health minister whom Annan named last week to head the United Nations civilian administration for Kosovo.

"Things are moving quickly," with both the return of refugees and the start of reconstruction happening faster than expected, Kouchner said.

While more soldiers arrive to enforce the peace, the UN refugee chief said Tuesday that her agency is dangerously close to running out of money for the humanitarian effort.

"I have money for about a week's operation," Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said at a news conference. She did not specify if any countries were lagging behind on their commitments for Kosovo.

The aid operation got some help Tuesday when the first UN cargo plane, loaded with communications equipment for aid agencies, officially opened Pristina's airport to non-military traffic.

Marcus Bowers, the chief of UN air operations in Kosovo, said an average of two aid flights a day would nowland at the airport.

Annan said the slow response of governments to providing officers for the planned 3,100 international police force "is a practical problem."

"It's not like the army where you have trained men sitting and waiting for action," he said.

Mayors have to find a way to free up police officers who are still needed in their own communities, he said. "It is not a question of reluctance."

Some 1,900 police officers have been pledged so far, Annan told reporters after meeting with Kouchner.

In Belgrade, Serbia's main opposition leader delivered another blow to President Slobodan Milosevic on Tuesday. Milosevic has sought to exploit divisions in the Serb opposition by bringing some of them into the government in the name of national unity. Vuk Draskovic, the main opposition leader as head of the Serbian Renewal Party, instead demanded Tuesday that Bulatovic resign and that a new "transitional" government should be formed headed by pro-Western Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.

Milosevic, who has been indicted for war crimes by an international tribunal, is under growing public pressure to resign for his hard-line policies that have led to NATO airstrikes and the virtual loss of Serbia's Kosovo province.

Ogata, on her first fact-finding trip to Kosovo since the NATO deployment, appealed Tuesday to all countries to provide money for Kosovo refugees.

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said the agency has budgeted about $389 million for Kosovo operations this year and so far has received only $155 million.

The agency estimates 606,300 refugees have returned to Kosovo so far, the vast majority of them ethnic Albanians.

In a separate development, Louis Garneau, a spokesman for the peacekeepers, said that late Monday four rifle shots were fired on the perimeter of KFOR's headquarters compound in Pristina but that no arrests were made and no one was injured.

A U.S. Army specialist struck by a car in Skopje, Macedonia over the weekend became the first American soldier to die in NATO's Kosovo peacekeeping mission, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Specialist Anthony W. Gilman, 23, of Michael, Illinois, was hit by the car Sunday afternoon after he stepped into traffic to place a warning triangle on a road to alert approaching motorists to the site of a previous accident, U.S. military officials said Monday.

Two people in the car that struck Gilman, who was assigned to B Company, 94th Engineer Battalion, also died.