U.N.'s Annan tours refugee camps, as appeal made for more aid
May 20, 1999
KUKES, Albania (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan received a warm welcome Thursday when he toured two refugee camps near Kukes, Albania, where nearly 100,000 Kosovo refugees have streamed across the border.
"I have heard heartbreaking stories about Kosovars who have been uprooted from their homes and who are anxious to go back again," he said.
Annan said despite the difficult situation, he found conditions in the camps reasonably good.
"It shows the tenacity of the human spirit," he said. "Given what they have gone through, they are not broken."
Meanwhile, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said Thursday that her organization was still strapped for cash to deal with the Kosovo refugee crisis, despite raising $50 million in donations through an appeal last week. At least $140 million is needed.
"There will be a new appeal and a new plan to cover (expenses for) the rest of the year, which will be quite large ... especially if the refugees stay in Albania and Macedonia," Ogata said.
"And we need to plan for winter, which is very costly in money terms and also in terms of engineering and logistics because Balkan winters are very cold," she said.
While acknowledging that the prospect looks remote at the moment, the UNHCR also published a plan on Thursday for the post-conflict return of Kosovo refugees and displaced persons to their homes.
The document sets out a four-stage strategy to be implemented after the end of the conflict.
"We are very far away from returning refugees to Kosovo or returning displaced people within the province to their original homes because, as we speak, people are still being expelled from Kosovo," said UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski.
"Nonetheless, in case there is some sort of a security arrangement, some sort of a political solution to the Kosovo crisis, we have to be ready," he said.
Janowski said several key conditions would have to be met before the plan could go into effect.
"The main conditions would be the complete pullout of Serb military, police and paramilitary forces to create some sort of secure situation on the ground and the presence of international troops," he said.
The plan lists numerous difficulties which will have to be overcome, ranging from land mines to the risks posed if a large number of refugees spontaneously try to return at once.
Also on Thursday, the Montenegrin news agency Montena-fax reported that Yugoslav soldiers have blocked Montenegro's border with Croatia, confiscating Italian humanitarian aid and turning back trucks because the drivers had no visas. Some of that aid was destined for Kosovo refugees.
Montenegro, which together with Serbia makes up the Yugoslav federation, had waved visa requirements for international visitors to encourage tourism. But since NATO's bombing campaign, Yugoslav federal troops have been stopping visitors without visas issued by the central government in Belgrade.
Correspondent Rusty Dornin and Reuters contributed to this report.
Serb officials say Yugoslavia 'ready to cut a deal'
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